Although he was taken 13 picks after him, Marlins 20-year old rookie Jose Fernandez said he isn't looking toward Sunday's start opposite Pirates' 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole as anything extra special.
Ditto for Cole.
"I think it's just another game," Cole, 22, said prior to Saturday's game at Marlins Park. "I'm pretty sure he'll probably treat it the same way. I didn't even realize I was facing him until somebody mentioned it a little while ago."
While the pitchers themselves may be trying to downplay the showdown of former first round picks, there a plenty looking forward to the matchup including Marlins manager Mike Redmond. He knows how competitive Fernandez is and acknowledged Saturday Fernandez ramps it up when he faces the best.
Cole, who has hit triple digits on the radar gun and sits 96 to 98 miles per hour on his fastball like Fernandez, has gone 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA, 29 strikeouts and 10 walks since being called up on June 11th. He dominated the Nationals in his last start, giving up just two hits and one earned run over seven innings in a win that ended a three-game slide.
"We'll definitely have our work cut out for us to score a couple runs," Redmond said. "But I like our guy too. It should be fun to watch."
Although some so-called experts pegged Fernandez's future to be in the Marlins bullpen, the seventh pitcher taken in the 2011 draft became the first player in the pitching-loaded 2011 class to make the All-Star team earlier this month.
Excluding Cole, Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer (2-4, 5.67 ERA in eight combined big-league starts), Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy (1 2/3 IP in two appearances last season), the other three pitchers taken ahead of Fernandez (6-5, 2.75 ERA) haven't sniffed the big leagues.
"If I was in high school now maybe [facing the No. 1 pick would provide extra motivation], but I'm in the big leagues and everybody here is good and trying to do a good job," said Fernandez, coming off a five-hit, two-run, seven-inning effort in a win over the Rockies Tuesday.
"I'm going to go out there and do the best I can -- I don't care who I'm pitching against."
Aside from picking up his first win in a Marlins uniform, Henderson Alvarez impressed his teammates and Redmond by hitting 98 miles per hour on the radar gun Friday night and throwing hard strikes. It was the first time this season the 23-year old Venezuelan had thrown that hard.
"What we've got here and what we've created is a great friendly competition between these guys," Redmond said. "You saw that last night with Alvarez. He doesn't want to be overshadowed by these young guys. He wanted to be talked about just like they do. I think what you saw was a guy say 'Hey I'm going to make a statement against the best team in the league. And I'm going to come out and pitch like I know I'm capable of pitching.'
"It kind of set me back a little bit to see he had that in there. I hadn't seen that. I'd seen him cut it loose a couple times in spring training at 93. But he had a little extra bounce to his step last night and that was fun to watch. I wish we would have been able to score a couple runs for him so we had kept him in there and seen him finish that game."
Catcher Jeff Mathis said he hasn't been around a team with three starting pitchers who can hit near triple digits on the radar gun. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (99 miles per hour) and Fernandez (98) are the other Marlins starters who can bring that kind of heat.
The last time Redmond saw a trio like that? "I played with them," he said. "AJ [Burnett], Brad Penny and Josh Beckett, I caught them all."
> After Jake Marisnick finally ended an 0-for-14 start with a single Friday, his teammates tricked him into thinking they had tossed the ball of his first career big league hit into the crowd. Redmond got a good laugh out of it, and took a playful jab at Marisnick -- whom he managed in the Blue Jays farm system -- again Saturday.
"I was just getting ready to take down the life size poster of Jake I got in Dunedin [before the hit]," Redmond joked. "I can keep it up in my room now."
> Outfielder Chris Coghlan said he participated in his second day of hitting and taking ground balls Saturday. He's been throwing for two weeks. "I feel great. There's still slight symptoms, but nothing to be alarmed at," Coghlan said of his back injury which has kept him on the disabled list since June 9. "Everything is progressing well."
The Marlins hope to send Coghlan to Jupiter to participate in more intensive activities some time next week. Redmond said first baseman Casey Kotchman, out since June 9th with a strained left oblique, will head to Jupiter next week on a rehab assignment.
> Andrew Heaney, the Marlins' first-round pick in 2012, pitched six scoreless innings Friday for Single A Jupiter, stretching his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 27 in a row.
Josh Beckett, another first-round pick by the Marlins, opened his first season by throwing 30 consecutive scoreless innings for the Marlins FSL affiliate at the time, Single A Brevard County.