(USA Today)According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Miami Marlins are planning to shut down All-Star and National League Rookie of the Year candidate Jose Fernandez after two more starts. That teams has also decided that both of those starts will come at Marlins Park, so his scheduled outing against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Wednesday will be pushed back until Friday, Sept. 6 when he’ll take on the Washington Nationals. His final start of the season will come on Sept. 11 against the Atlanta Braves
This isn’t shocking news, but it’s certainly newsworthy. Fernandez, 21, was one of the best stories in baseball this season, exceeding even the most optimistic expectations, and blowing my pessimistic expectations out of the water. In 26 starts, Fernandez is 10-6 with a 2.33 ERA and a league best 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. That’s the overall picture, but his numbers since the All-Star game — where he retired Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis in order — have been even better. In eight starts, he’s 5-1 with a 1.50 ERA and a 70-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The biggest number, though, at least in the mind of the Marlins, is 158 2/3. That represents the numbers of innings he’s thrown to date, and puts him right in the range Miami manager Mike Redmond intended to keep him in this season.
“That was the range as an organization that we felt comfortable leaving him around, 150-170, depending on how many starts he did,” Redmond said. “It was kind of the unknown at the beginning of the season, how he would do, and how he would perform. We were looking at ways to protect him, based on how many innings he had gone before. That’s the number we came up with.”
Some will say there’s no real reason to put an innings cap on a young pitcher like Fernandez. For the most part I agree with those people, but it’s a little different when the team involved has nothing to play for. In that case, there’s really no harm in saving 300 or so pitches. Where it could hurt him, though, is the race for National League Rookie of the Year. Right now I’d say he’s neck-and-neck with Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig. With Puig being given the final three weeks to make the last impression, he could end running away with the award.
Time will tell on that. And the Marlins won’t care one way or the other.