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Jose Fernandez sent to minors -- maybe for last time

     JUPITER -- Nobody could have ever guessed from the smile on his face that Jose Fernandez had just been told he was being sent to the minors. But as the Marlins' top pitching prospect cleaned out his locker, Fernandez was anything but unhappy.

      "They were trying to make it easy for me and I told them, 'You don't have to. It's not a big deal,'" Fernandez said. "I understand how this works. I'm fine."

      Fernandez was reassigned to minor league camp and is expected to open the season at Double A Jacksonville. If all goes well for him there, Fernandez could be promoted to the majors as early as mid-season depending on the team's need at the time. Conceivably, Fernandez could replace Ricky Nolasco in the rotation if Nolasco is dealt before the trading deadline. When Fernandez arrives to the majors, it could be for good. He's ranked No. 5 overall on Baseball America's list of top prospects.

       "They told me, 'Hopefully this is the last time,'" Fernandez said. "You guys know me. I'm pretty confident, and I think I can pitch in the big leagues today. That's my personal opinion. Maybe I'm not ready. But that's how I feel. I feel I've got to learn and I've got to do the stuff that will help me be more successful in the big leagues. I think I will."

       The 20-year-old right-hander appeared in only one Grapefruit League game, delivering two scoreless innings and allowing only one base runner while striking out two. He also pitched against Venezuela in that country's tune-up for the World Baseball Classic.

       "It was fun," he said. "I enjoyed every bit of it, being around big-league guys, pitching against Venezuela. I enjoyed every bit of it and I'm glad they gave me a chance to be here."

       Fernandez always knew this day would come. He's just surprised it didn't happen sooner.

       "I expected it," Fernandez said. "I've been expecting it the last two weeks. I'm 20 years old. I can't be upset. I can't. It's not a secret. I knew I was going to get sent down. I was waiting for it. I know I've got to get ready for my (minor league) season. I want to get my routine going. I know they made the right call."

       -- The Marlins also reassigned outfielder Jake Marisnick to minor league camp and optioned right-handed reliever Chris Hatcher to Triple A New Orleans. The Marlins now have 49 players in camp.


       Third baseman Placido Polanco (oblique strain) said he hopes to play Saturday. Polanco said he's been throwing and hitting and that his injury feels much better than it did a week ago.


       The Braves brought their big boys over for tonight's game at Roger Dean Stadium.

       The lineups:

       Marlins: 1. Juan Pierre, lf; 2. Donovan Solano, 2b; 3. Rob Brantly, c; 4. Justin Ruggiano, cf; 5. Chris Coghlan, dh; 6. Austin Kearns, rf; 7. Casey Kotchman, 1b; 8. Chris Valaika, 3b; 9. Adeiny Hechavarria. P -- Nathan Eovaldi.

       Braves: 1. Ramiro Pena, ss; 2. Jason Heyward, rf; 3. Justin Upton, lf; 4. Freddie Freeman, 1b; 5. B.J. Upton, cf; 6. Dan Uggla, 2b; 7. Juan Francisco, 3b; 8. Gerald Laird, c; 9. Kris Medlen, p.