ATLANTA -- Remember how Dontrelle Willis used to slide head first and how upset it made his Marlins managers? After Jose Fernandez did the same thing Friday at Turner Field, manager Mike Redmond told the rookie pitcher not to do it again. [Here's the link to the video.]
Fernandez legged out a triple in the third inning in which he slid head-first into third base and scored the Marlins' only run in a 2-1 loss to the Braves. While Redmond applauded Fernandez's grit and determination, which was on full display against the Braves, he wasn't happy about the pitcher's sliding technique.
"I wouldn't haven't been disappointed if he stopped at second," Redmond said. "And I definitely wouldn't have been disappointed if he slid feet first instead of head first. I remember having a conversation with Dontrelle Willis, telling him 'Please, Dontrelle, don't ever do that again.' Dontrelle did it into home plate. Jose did it into third. And I hope we don't ever see that again."
Fernandez acknowleded his mistake.
"That's the way I play the game," Fernandez said. "I know it's not smart. I'll just try to learn from that. One play, that can end my career. It would be nice to grow up with this team and I would love to keep pitching, so that's something I can't let happen again. It's just the moment in the game."
Redmond said he admires the fire Fernandez brings to the game.
"I love the energy," Redmond said. "He brings a spark to our team when we need one. He's a special kid. He gives us everything he's got everytime he goes out there, and it's fun to watch."
Fernandez went six innings in what was a gritty performance, albeit a losing one. Afterward, he might have tipped his hand when he said he expected to face the Braves again when Atlanta visits South Florida on Sept. 9-12. If so, that would mean Fernandez will make two more starts, not one, before being shut down for the season.
Fernandez has now thrown 158 2/3 innings -- 12 innings shy of the 170-inning limit established for him by the team.
Fernandez provided more evidence of how he tries to make the game fun. Freddie Freeman homered off Fernandez in the first inning on a first-pitch change-up. When Freeman doubled off the wall in center his next at bat, the pitcher turned to him standing at second and smiled.
"I said 'How can I get you out?'" Fernandez said. "And he laughed."
When Freeman stepped to the plate in the sixth, Fernandez told him jokingly to "go back to the dugout." Fernandez struck out Freeman that time.