Fernandez perfect in first ASG vs. heart of AL order
Marlins rookie strikes out Pedroia, Davis, gets Cabrera to pop out in sixth inning
NEW YORK -- As he sat on the bus that transported him and other National League All-Stars to Citi Field on Monday, Jose Fernandez marveled at the collection of talent that surrounded him. Just three months into his Major League career and five years removed from his incredible journey from Cuba to the United States, the 20-year-old right-hander wondered if he was worthy to be part of this elite group.
Fernandez's perspective changed when Marlins director of media relations Matt Roebuck informed him that he should indeed feel honored that he was the only member of a talented rookie class to gain an All-Star selection this year.
The baseball world gained a better sense of Fernandez's tremendous talents as he recorded a pair of strikeouts while completing a perfect sixth inning against the heart of the American League lineup in the National League's 3-0 loss in Tuesday night's All-Star Game.
Fernandez opened the sixth by getting Dustin Pedroia to look at a called third strike and ended it by getting Chris Davis to swing through a third strike. In between, he got Miguel Cabrera to hit a weak pop fly that first baseman Paul Goldschmidt caught in foul territory.
"Miguel Cabrera is the greatest hitter in the game," Fernandez said. "It was incredible to face those guys and get them out. It was really amazing."
Instead of being overwhelmed by the challenge of facing two former Most Valuable Player Award winners and the current favorite to win this year's AL MVP, Fernandez showed incredible poise. Each of the three pitches he threw to Cabrera were 98-mph fastballs.
"I'm proud of how I went out there and didn't try to overdo anything," Fernandez said. "That was one of things that I look back and I'm pretty happy about. The result was good, but I'm happy I wasn't trying to overdo stuff."
While Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller might be the current favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, Fernandez has compiled equally impressive credentials and legitimized Miami's decision to allow him to make the leap from the Class A level to the Majors after just 27 Minor League starts.
"I'm not really thinking about that," Fernandez said. "I'm just trying to do a good job and trying to throw the ball well. I'm not really thinking about Rookie of the Year. If it happens, great. If it doesn't, I don't mind. I'm just trying to do my job."
While splitting 10 decisions through his first 18 starts, Fernandez has only strengthened the belief that it is archaic to judge pitchers based on their win-loss totals. The electric right-hander leads all Major League rookie pitchers in ERA (2.75), batting average allowed (.196) and on-base percentage allowed (.278).
Miller (9.63) and Fernandez (8.86) rank first and second among rookie pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings. Both have compiled exactly 104 2/3 innings.
"[Fernandez] has a lot of energy and a lot of hype," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "I love everything about that guy. I wish he was one of my teammates. He's fun to be around. He wants to learn and always wants to improve. He has great stuff. He's one of the best pitchers in the game. I don't feel comfortable in the box with him."
Fernandez and Phillips gained an immediate bond as they stood in the outfield shagging fly balls as the NL team took batting practice on Monday at Citi Field. Somewhere in the midst of their conversation, Phillips mentioned the home run that he hit off the young right-hander on May 16 in Miami.
"He has electric stuff," Phillips said. "He's just one of those kinds of pitchers that you have to go up there and guess and hope you can make some contact. I told him 'When I hit that home run, I guessed my [butt] off.'"
Along with interacting with the game's top players, Fernandez has enjoyed the opportunity to have his mother, Maritza, in New York this week to celebrate his first All-Star selection. Five years ago, he had to pull her out of the Gulf of Mexico after she fell off one of the boats that carried them out of Cuba and toward the freedom they would initially gain in Mexico.
This harrowing experience allowed Fernandez and his mother to have an even greater appreciation as they watched Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes display his tremendous power while winning Monday night's Home Run Derby.
"You're happy for these people who have been through some of the same stuff you've been through," Fernandez said. "Their success in the big leagues is fun."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.