It's been a dreamy rookie season for 20-year old Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez, one made even sweeter by the All-Star experience he got to share with his mother Maritza in New York earlier this week.
"We actually stayed in the same room, talking until two, three in the morning every night," said Fernandez, who jumped into the ocean five years ago to save his mother during their daring escape from Cuba.
"My mom did a lot shopping with me. I was happy about that."
As good as things have been, Fernandez knows the good times -- at least for this season -- aren't going to last forever. He's well aware the number of starts he has left are numbered and before long he's going to be shut down.
The Marlins, who open the second half of their season Friday night in Milwaukee, have had their 2011 first round pick on an innings count all season. And despite the rookie's first half success, they still plan on shutting him down early to protect his arm.
"What we said was 150 to 170 innings," manager Mike Redmond said Thursday after his team got back together for the first time since the All-Star and held an afternoon practice at Marlins Park. "Obviously we're going to push for closer to 170."
Fernandez, who had never pitched above Single A Jupiter before he surprisingly made the Marlins' Opening Day roster back in April, threw 104 2/3 innings in the first half of the season. Last year, he threw a total of 134 innings.
This season's first half, Fernandez finished 5-5 with a 2.75 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 40 walks. A total of 66 percent of his pitches went for strikes. In all, Fernandez threw 1,617 pitches, an average of nearly 90 pitches a start. The only time he eclipsed 100 pitches was in four of his last six starts.
Redmond said he never thinks about the long term when Fernandez takes the mound.
"I go solely on how he's doing that day," he said. "If he has a chance to win a ballgame or whatever it is and he's going good then we'll let him throw seven or eight innings. I've never gone into a game going we can only let him throw six innings a day. I take it from game to game. If he has a chance to throw a complete game then I'll let him throw a complete game. If he keeps his pitches down and he has a chance he'll go out there."
But protecting Fernandez's young arm is still important to Redmond for the long-term. Fernandez, for his part, would love to pitch the entire season. But he said he has no problem with the Marlins' plans in part because they've been up front since the get-go.
"They know I love to pitch, love to compete. They got a plan and I'm going to follow it 100 percent," Fernandez said. "I have nothing against it. For me, that's all I'm going to do.
"My next start is on Tuesday [in Colorado] and I'm going to go out there and do the best I can until they take me out. The next one after that should be five days after that and I'm going to do the best I can. That's how I'm taking it. I'm not really thinking about innings and stuff like that. They have a plan. They've had it since the season started. So far I think we're doing good. Our plan is working. Just keep it up."
-- MANNY NAVARRO