Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 6/18/13
MIAMI (AP) -- The Miami Marlins were savoring a rare victory, thanks to pitcher Jose Fernandez's latest gem. A team official attempted to engage the rookie in a discussion as highlights of his performance began showing on the clubhouse television. Mesmerized, Fernandez walked away from the conversation and toward the TV. "Come on, dude," the Marlins official grumbled. "Hey, I want to see this, bro," Fernandez replied. For the 20-year-old Cuban defector, it's all new -- pitching in the majors, winning games, seeing himself on TV. When he's not on the mound, he often hangs over the dugout railing, captivated by the action and cheering on a team with the worst record in the majors. If Fernandez acts as though he's trying to enjoy every moment, he is. "I keep saying, 'I'm here, and I want to have fun,'" he said. While fun has been in short supply for the Marlins, Fernandez is making their season more bearable. The precocious right-hander is 4-3, remarkable considering the rest of the pitching staff began the week a combined 17-44. Heading into Wednesday's start at Arizona, Fernandez ranks among the top three rookies in the majors in ERA (3.11) , strikeouts per inning (77 in 72 13) and opposing batting average (.210). Such statistics are all the more impressive because he doesn't turn 21 until July 31. Fernandez became the first pitcher under 21 to allow less than two runs and less than four hits in each of his first two career starts since 1965. And in his most recent outing, Fernandez became the first pitcher under 21 to strike out 10 or more since Felix Hernandez with Seattle in 2007. "He's similar to Felix when he was younger," two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay said. "He has that presence and that kind of stuff. If he continues to develop, he could be one of those guys." Fernandez smiles when such praise is relayed to him, but then he smiles much of the time, mindful of how far he has come. The 90 miles from Cuba to Florida is a long way. "It has been pretty hard for me to get here -- not to the big leagues, but to the United States," he said. "Living in Cuba for 15 years taught me a lot. Life over there is pretty tough. I'm incredibly blessed to be in the United States." Fernandez's first three attempts to defect were foiled, and the youngster spent several months in prison. Finally he escaped the island by boat with his mother, and when she fell into the Yucatan Channel, he jumped in and pulled her out. They made it to Mexico and eventually reunited in Tampa, Fla., with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier. At Tampa Alonso High School, Fernandez began hearing he was destined for greatness. He learned to speak fluent English while contemplating stardom and plotting a persona. "It's great to be humble," he said, sounding like a country song. "People will love you more in the long run. I don't want to be just a good pitcher. I want to be a great example on the field." The hype about Fernandez has been justified. He went 30-3 in three prep seasons, helped his team win two state titles and was taken by the Marlins with the 14th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He went 14-2 with a 2.02 ERA in 27 minor-league starts, none above Single-A, and cracked the Marlins' rotation with a strong spring. "He has the ability to execute pitches like only a handful of guys I've ever seen," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. At 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds, Fernandez is physically mature for his age, and his repertoire is also advanced. Many of his strikeouts come on a slider or curve, which he'll throw even on a 3-2 count, and this year he added an effective changeup to go with his fastball, which is consistently in the mid-90s and peaks at 98 mph. "He's so polished for a young pitcher," Redmond said. "It's amazing how good his secondary pitches are." The Marlins have been careful with the youngster's workload, and they'll likely limit him to no more than 170 innings this year. But he wants to be a workhorse and was pleased to throw a career-high 107 pitches to beat the high-scoring Cardinals in his most recent start, especially after giving up two runs in the first inning. "I compete my butt off," he said. "It doesn't matter who I'm facing. It could be the best hitter in the world; it could be my mom. I compete and compete and compete and compete, and that's what everybody is going to get out of me every time." Was it a thrill to beat the Cardinals? Heck, it was a thrill just to meet them. "One of the special moments in the game: The first time I went up to hit, Yadier Molina was catching," Fernandez said. "I look up to that guy. When they won the World Series, I saw him catch and I said, 'Man, I wish one day I could shake his hand.' "So I said, 'Man, it's a pleasure to be playing against you.' He said, 'No, it's my pleasure.' It was great to get to pitch against him." And perhaps someday Molina will tell his grandkids about the first time he met Jose Fernandez.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Chris Paul ‘despises’ Doc Rivers, had issues with treatment of son Austin

Report: Jimmy Butler recruiting Kyle Lowry to the Timberwolves

WATCH: Tim Tebow didn't waste any time homering after promotion

Nolan Arenado throws out runner from seated position

NFL fans in Florida seem to like Tom Brady more than any of their three teams’ players

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Mayweather-McGregor fight is reportedly seeking a $10 million title sponsor

Terry Francona wearing heart monitor in case of another 'episode'

Albert Almora denies flipping off President Donald Trump during White House visit

Blazers post hilarious tweets after acquiring cash from Rockets

Chip Kelly defends Kaepernick: He was not a distraction

Steve Smith faces suspension should he unretire

The 'You get a steal! You get a steal! Everybody gets a steal!' quiz

Rewriting the Hall of Fame rubric for today's pitchers

Top NBA free agents available

Box Score 6/28: New York loses its zen

Although you have seen this start before, this season is no sequel for the Dodgers

The 'Power hitters are coming for that number one spot' quiz

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Ricky Davis takes unnecessary shots at Al Harrington

Who won Wimbledon the year you were born?

Box Score 6/27: Monday is for all sorts of ballers

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'You get a steal! You get a steal! Everybody gets a steal!' quiz

Rewriting the Hall of Fame rubric for today's pitchers

2017 is not another disappointing sequel for the Dodgers

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Ricky Davis takes unnecessary shots at Al Harrington

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'Power hitters are coming for that number one spot' quiz

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker