Florida first-round pick (14th overall) Jose Fernandez made his professional debut Saturday afternoon with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Marlins. Fernandez pitched two innings, allowing one run (unearned) on one hit (broken-bag single) while striking out two against the GCL Mets in St. Lucie.
Fernandez, who has thrown several bullpen sessions in Jupiter since signing for $2 million just before the Aug. 16 deadline, was originally scheduled to pitch Thursday, but inclement weather from Hurricane Irene canceled the game and pushed his appearance back.
Reports about Fernandez's stuff on Saturday were encouraging: His fastball sat between 94-98 mph, and he mixed in several 83-85 curveballs and 80-81 changeups.
Saturday's start was the Cuban defector's first against live batters in more than three months, since he pitched in the Florida 6A state semifinal for Tampa Alonso High against Park Vista on May 24 -- ironically, that game was also played at Digital Domain Park, the Mets' spring training, Florida State League and GCL home.
It will be interesting to see what Florida's front office decides to do next with Fernandez, as the GCL Marlins have only one game remaining on their schedule. The next step in the developmental ladder, short-season Jamestown, continues play through Sept. 4. Low Class A Greensboro wraps up its season on Sept. 5, but the Grasshoppers have a chance of making the South Atlantic League playoffs -- assuming Hickory (Rangers) wins the second-half Northern division title, Greensboro would need to make up a two-game defecit to catch Kannapolis (White Sox).
Presumably, Fernandez should be able to make at least one more start before the season ends. Either way, early indications are that Fernandez will return to Jupiter to take part in the Florida Instructional League.
-- Matt Forman