Jitters building as Fernandez set to return

Jitters building as Fernandez set to return

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez has waited nearly 14 months to return to a big league game, but that doesn't mean Miami's ace will be well-rested for his 12:10 p.m. ET start on Thursday against the Giants at Marlins Park.

The anticipation of the start has the energetic 22-year-old so amped up, he doesn't anticipate getting a good night's sleep.

"No chance," Fernandez said. "I don't think I will. I woke up at 8 a.m. today."

Without question, Fernandez will be eager to go for the matinee against the Giants, who will have Matt Cain back from the disabled list.

The journey back from Tommy John surgery, performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache on May 16, 2014, has taught Fernandez patience. Now, the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year is ready for action.

"Hopefully I can throw a first-pitch strike," Fernandez said. "That's what I care about -- giving my team a chance to win. Just throwing and being healthy. That's all I can ask for tomorrow."

The Marlins haven't set a firm pitch count for Fernandez, who topped 90 pitches in his recent rehab-assignment starts.

"Common sense count," manager Dan Jennings said.

The addition of Fernandez has caused the Marlins to rework their rotation. For the weekend series at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Tom Koehler will start on Friday, Jarred Cosart will go on Saturday and Mat Latos is lined up for Sunday.

Fernandez will make two starts before the All-Star break, with the second on July 9, at home against the Reds.

"[Thursday] should be a fun day for everybody -- for South Florida, this organization and this team, and most importantly, for Jose," Jennings said. "He's been working extremely hard to get back to this place and this opportunity. I think it's great for baseball. He's truly one of the faces of the game with his energy, so there are a lot of positives to this."

Fernandez's agent, Scott Boras, has made the trip to Miami to attend the outing.

"Like anything else, this is new," Boras said. "Any time you go on a 14-month conditioning program and you have surgery, you may be stronger in areas. Fastball command, until you get into MLB games, is something you feel for, you grab for."

Boras, who also represents Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, notes each Tommy John case is different. Harvey returned from his procedure after 17 months.

"Some feel the command right away," Boras said. "Others feel the strength and feel healthy, but their command is not as great. The main thing is they're out there, they're comfortable and they don't have any soreness or stiffness after they get done with the outings. That's kind of what I look for."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.