KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- These may be the dog days of August, but Jose Fernandez is feeling anything but pooped. To the contrary. The 21-year-old rookie, after shutting down the Kansas City Royals last night, says he feels like a million bucks.
"For the second half of the year, I've been feeling a lot stronger than the first half," Fernandez said following yet another strong performance. "That's something that happened last year, too. Same thing happened last year. The first half I'm just doing my stuff. The second half I'm working a lot harder. I don't know why. I'm getting used to my body and myself. This is my second professional year and I'm feeling right now exactly how I felt last year."
No matter how strong Fernandez is feeling, though, the Marlins have no intention of modifying their original plans to cap his innings at 150-170 (though it's safe to assume he'll be permitted to take aim on the high end given how effortlessly he appears to be throwing). Fernandez has now thrown 139 2/3 innings, or just a few innings more than he totaled all of last season in the minors (134 1/3).
But his numbers appear to support his contention that he's "stronger" and better now than he was to start the season. His ERA since June 1: 1.65. His strikeout rate has been climbing. He averaged 8.6 K's/9 innings in April, 9.2 in May, 8.9 in June, 10.3 in July and 11.3 this month. Conversely, his WHIP has diminished each month: 1.292 in April, 1.200 in May, .928 in June, .857 in July and .850 this month.
It all jives with manager Mike Redmond's assessment that Fernandez is a different pitcher now than he was before his All-Star Game appearance.
"After the All-Star Game, I think he was a different guy," Redmond said. "I think that All-Star Game made him, if you can imagine, even more confident. I think he went up against the best and, even though he threw one inning, that was a huge inning for him confidence-wise. Really, since the All-Star Game, I think he's been a different pitcher. He's going out there going 'I want to be the best pitcher in the league.' And you know what? He's making a case."
Giancarlo Stanton is back on the bench as the Marlins close out the road trip. Justin Ruggiano, who is mired in an 0 for 42 hitless skid -- three shy of the single-season major league record for a position player -- is starting in right field. Stanton also sat out a game in Atlanta. Stanton has gone 5 for 29 on the road trip with 11 strikeouts and only one extra-base hit, a double.
1. Christian Yelich, lf; 2. Donovan Solano, 2b; 3. Logan Morrison, 1b; 4. Placido Polanco 3b; 5. Greg Dobbs, dh; 6. Adeiny Hechavarria, ss; 7. Jake Marisnick, cf; 8. Justin Ruggiano, rf; 9. Koyie Hill, c. Pitching: Jacob Turner.