NEW YORK -- Dwight "Doc" Gooden, whose outstanding rookie season as a 19-year-old with the New York Mets in 1984 is considered one of the benchmarks for young pitchers, said Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez has what it takes to become one of baseball's great ones.
"If he stays healthy, the sky's the limit for him," Gooden said Friday during a book signing at Citi Field. "He has great stuff. He's only going to get better, and that's the scary part."
Gooden won the '84 Rookie of the Year award after going 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA and striking out a league-leading 276 batters in only 218 innings. Fernandez, who is considered a frontrunner for the N.L. Rookie of the Year award this season, has a better ERA (2.19) but not nearly the number of strikeouts (187 in 172 2/3 innings).
Gooden said there's a lot to like about Fernandez, who he has seen pitch on several occasions. For one, Gooden joked that he likes the fact that Fernandez lived in Tampa -- Gooden's hometown -- after defecting from Cuba, and that he wears the same uniform number -- No. 16 -- the former Mets' star wore in his playing days.
"I like that," Gooden said, smiling.
But, most of all, Gooden said he likes Fernandez's presence on the mound.
"I think the thing that sticks out more than anything is his mound presence," Gooden said. "I mean, here's a guy, he pitches like he's been there for a long time. He's not afraid of hitters. He likes pitching inside. He has a lot of confidence. I don't think he's cocky. I think it's a lot of confidence. So that's what really sticks out to me."
Advice for Fernandez?
"On the field, continue to work hard, remember what got you there," Gooden said. "Stick around the veterans. Always try to be a student of the game. There's always something you can improve on. You know you've had a great year, but there's always something you can challenge yourself to improve on. As far as off the field, understand that a lot of people approach you. A lot of them might not have your best interests. Just be aware of that."
Overall, Gooden said Fernandez is simply "fun to watch. He has a lot of energy."
"I think he's going to put up great numbers for years to come," Gooden said.