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Criticism aside, Jose Fernandez isn't changing; Hickey/Ireland difference; LeBron's future; UM


Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez not only dominated the competition in winning National League Rookie of the Year but had a blast doing it --- chit-chatting with opponents during games or grinning after striking them out, to the annoyance of some on the other end of those outs.

Fernandez has said he has no intention of changing, but a few Marlins people wonder whether he should, especially with regard to his playful exchanges with opponents during games.

“I wouldn’t want to see that because you are sending mixed messages,” Marlins special assistant Andre Dawson said. “I played in an era you couldn’t do that. I would like to see the concentration level different. I like to see more intensity on the mound like, “I’m here to stick it up your rear end.’”

Still, Dawson said: “He’s a good kid. He’ll learn. You can’t fault him for animation.”

In a conversation at the end of last season, Marlins infielder Greg Dobbs expressed some concern about Fernandez’s theatrics but did not want to give the impression that he’s chastising him.

“You never want to come across to teammates and opponents as being pompous or grandstanding or insulting,” Dobbs said. “If someone does that a lot, they may open themselves up to the perception of others. I’m not saying those are his intentions. But you don’t want to give that perception. We’re not here to grandstand or boast.”

He said the “best pitchers do not” talk to batters during at-bats. “Mariano Rivera doesn’t do that,” Dobbs said. “You don’t need to do that. You can draw extra criticism. You have to put a governor on that excitability. You don’t want that to distract.”

Dobbs said if it ever “gets to the point where it’s a detriment, it would have to be addressed” with Fernandez.

Fernandez’s theatrics led to only on-field incident last season, in September against Atlanta. Annoyed by Evan Gattis’ reaction to a home run off him, Fernandez screamed at the Braves dugout.

After Fernandez hit a home run during the bottom half of that sixth inning, he admired it and spat on third base. Fernandez apologized afterward.

“He’s a playful guy on the mound and he likes to have fun,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “… Then he shouldn’t get upset when we hit a home run and have fun ourselves… You can’t have it both ways.”

Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said Fernandez irritates opponents by grinning after getting them out.

Fernandez and Marlins manager Mike Redmond have said they don’t believe Fernandez needs to change his on-field demeanor.

“That’s how I am,” Fernandez said late last season. “I like to have fun. I can’t be someone I’m not. [Hall of Fame pitcher] Don Sutton told me, ‘Don’t change. Be who you are.’”

And what about opponents who have a problem with that? “They’re not on my team, so,” he said, his point clear without feeling like he needed to complete the sentence.

The view here: I have no problem with Fernandez engaging opposing players in playful banter, as long as he doesn’t cross the line like he did against Atlanta. His personality is an asset, and his chattiness clearly didn’t affect his concentration during a remarkable rookie season (12-6, 2.19 ERA and third place in Cy Young balloting).

Incidentally, Fernandez told mlb.com that he biked 70 to 80 miles a day five or six times a week during the offseason and has lost 20 pounds.   


### Pitchers and catchers report Sunday, and though Redmond will determine the lineup, president/baseball operations Michael Hill mentioned this as a logical batting order: Rafael Furcal, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Garrett Jones (against right-handers) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia fourth and fifth in some order, then Marcell Ozuna, Casey McGehee, Adeiny Hechavarria and the pitcher. Jeff Baker figures to replace Jones against some lefties, though Hill didn’t say that.

"That would give you a balanced lineup, a mixture of left or right or switch hitters... to keep pitchers off balance," Hill said.

### The Marlins are dropping prices on every seat in the ballpark, from 20 to 25 percent on average.

###  Giancarlo Stanton told MLB.com that before he even considers a long-term offer from the Marlins, “I want some team security [stability].... That doesn’t happen in two seconds. That happens over a season or two seasons. You show me that and we can get something going.” Neither the Marlins nor Stanton want to negotiate during the season, so an offer isn’t expected until next winter.

### An ESPN.com story last week mentioned the Clippers as potentially the Heat’s most serious competition for LeBron James this summer. But a close associate of James said he highly doubts the Clippers scenario would happen and added the Heat remains the heavy front-runner to keep him.

“He’s happy here, really happy with the organization,” said the associate, who believes Cleveland is the only other realistic possibility for James this summer.

The capped-out Clippers would need to do a sign-and-trade with the Heat for James, with Blake Griffin going to Miami in ESPN’s hypothetical. But as his associate said, why would James want to uproot his family again when a nucleus of James, buddy Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan isn’t better than Jordan, Dwyane Wade (if healthy) and Chris Bosh?

### LeBron was magnificent in Phoenix Tuesday (37 points, nine rebounds, five steals), and only Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson have more 35-point, 5-steal games in the past quarter century, according to ESPN. "My shoulder, knee and groin are feeling a lot better," he said after the game.

### With Wade out with a migraine Tuesday, Toney Douglas made his first start since January 2012, when he was a member of the Knicks, and missed seven of his nine shots.

Erik Spoelstra opted to start Douglas in order to keep Ray Allen with the second unit, and also because "in terms of pick and roll, defense --- we've been drilling it for three weeks --- he has been as disruptive on the ball as anybody we've had those three weeks. Yesterday, he was blowing up every pick and roll by himself."

Spoelstra bypassed Roger Mason Jr., who was inactive. 

And even without Wade, Spoelstra bypassed Michael Beasley, opting instead for Rashard Lewis (one point in 11 minutes). Spoelstra didn't play Greg Oden, whose playing time appears to be based entirely on the style and size of the opponent.

### Former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland had no interest in short, light linebackers (Miami’s lightest linebacker is 240 pounds) and was disinclined to make exceptions to his size/weight prototypes at other positions.

But whereas new GM Dennis Hickey prefers big players at certain positions, he has no stringent requirements if he likes a player. So Hickey appears far more likely to draft some smaller, playmaking linebackers than Ireland would.

Case in point: Hickey strongly advocated Tampa Bay’s decision to draft 6-1, 233-pound Lavonte David, who was far better than any Miami linebacker this past season.

Keep that in mind with a player such as Ohio State’s 6-2, 229-pound Ryan Shazier, who led the Big 10 with 144 tackles and could go late in the first round or during the second round in May. “He’s got a lot of Lavonte David in him,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper said. “He’s all over the field, heck of a player.”  

### Ray Farmer, who was named Brown GM on Tuesday, said he didn't know he would be getting the Cleveland job when he turned down a chance for a second interview with the Dolphins a few weeks ago. "That job was not right for Ray Farmer," he said Tuesday, oddly using the third person. (Farmer wouldn't give the Dolphins a specific reason, either.)

### UM recruiting coordinator Brennan Carroll said UM's new quarterback additions are "like a rematch
of the Super Bowl. We have Peyton Manning with Brad Kaaya and Russell Wilson with Malik Rosier."....

For those who like to hear Al Golden speak during his annual Hurricanes Club spring tour, he will do three in-state appearances this year: May 1 at UM, May 8 in Orlando and May 9 in Jacksonville. Check hurricanesports.com for prices and details. And Golden, Jonathan Vilma, Clinton Portis, Michael Irvin, Russell Maryland and Brock Berlin will appear at a May 22 dinner in Chicago where Gino Torretta will be honored.