Jose Fernandez is ready to take the next step in his comeback from Tommy John surgery.
The National League 2013 Rookie of the Year will face live hitters for the first time on Thursday when he throws 15 pitches during batting practice, manager Mike Redmond said.
Is this a sign Fernandez could be back before July -- the initial anticipated return date?
"Way too early [for that]," Redmond said. "Let's let him get through the 15 pitches first."
> Opening Day starter Henderson Alvarez (shoulder inflammation) is expected to throw his first bullpen since going on the disabled on Wednesday. Alvarez will likely be out at least another two weeks.
YELICH HAS SLIGHT BULGE IN DISC
An MRI performed on left fielder Christian Yelich Friday revealed what he said trainers thought he had -- a slight bulging disc in his lower back.
Yelich said the pain is similar to the kind he had last year when he went to the disabled list for 15 days in mid-June.
"It should be alright after a few days if I just stay on it and take care of it," Yelich said. "We didn't really know what it was last year, what was causing it. We kind of had an idea. The MRI kind of confirmed what everybody was thinking.
"It's pretty much the same thing, slightly less [pain] this time compared to last year. It's not nearly as bad, but there's still discomfort, not a whole lot of range of motion. It just takes time. This is about day five or six now. It's starting to get a little bit looser, feel a little bit better. I have to go through all the progression stuff that will get me back on the field."
Yelich said the only remedy and preventative measure for future back pain is strengthening his Gluteal muscles and lower back. He said the best-case scenario right now is he'll be able to come off the disabled list on time -- when the Marlins head off on their next road trip May 4.
"I think it's something attainable," he said. "I'll just go to go day-to-day with it and see how it feels. It's feeling better everyday and it's encouraging."
CISHEK PICKS UP FIRST SAVE
The Marlins became the last team in the majors to pick up a save Friday night. The 17-game wait matched the franchise's longest set twice before in 2005 and 2013.
Closer Steve Cishek said it's nice to get the first one out of the way. He ended up with 34 saves the last time this happened in 2013.
"The first one is always the toughest I feel like," Cishek said. "[The diving stop Prado made for the first out in the ninth Friday] was an unbelievable play. I hung a slider and it kind of backed up on me. [Yunel] Escobar put a good swing on it. I turned around and saw the ball sitting on the ground after [Prado] stopped it. He picked it up and threw him out. That fires you up."
ICHIRO TIES JAPANESE RECORD
Ichiro Suzuki said he had no idea he had set a record when he scored the 1,967th run in his professional career Friday, tying him with Sadaharu Oh for the most ever by a Japanese player.
Ichiro, who played for Oh on Japan's World Baseball Classic team in 2006, said he found out when he started reading emails from fans.
Ichiro said he's maintained a friendship with Oh over the years and visits him at least once a year.
"Mr. Oh's records in Japan are very special," Ichiro said. "So I'm very honored."