Fernandez happy to finish his season healthy

Fernandez happy to finish his season healthy

ST. PETERSBURG -- You saw a little bit of everything from Jose Fernandez in his final start of the season. The 23-year-old showed overpowering stuff, topping at 100 mph.

Then there was some adversity, as Fernandez also showed vulnerability, allowing a career-high 11 hits. Yet, he struck out nine, including fanning the final two batters he faced in the Marlins' 4-1 loss to the Rays on Thursday at Tropicana Field.

The highs and lows were wrapped in one final appearance in what will go down as the season Fernandez returned from major surgery.

"I can't be more happy to finish the season healthy," Fernandez said. "It's a big, big personal goal, honestly."

Fernandez exited after six innings and 91 pitches. When it was all said and done, there were plenty of encouraging signs as he closes out the year at 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts.

"There's a lot to work to do," Fernandez said. "I've got a long ways to go. Not even close to where I need to be, as for personal goals. Starting off is being healthy. A lot of stuff to work. A lot of homework to do. We're going to learn from this year."

When Spring Training started, you didn't know what to expect. Fernandez was recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made his debut on July 2, and on Aug. 7 at Atlanta, he experienced right shoulder discomfort, going back on the disabled list with a right biceps tendinitis strain.

Since being reinstated on Sept. 12, he made four starts, and now heads into the offseason with peace of mind.

"It's just the fact you want to see every guy who is injured hopefully establish health going into the offseason," manager Dan Jennings said.

Fernandez's previous high for hits allowed was nine on Sept. 25 against the Braves.

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Making his 47th big league start, Fernandez had never given up double-digit hits in a game until Grady Sizemore singled with one out in the fifth inning. Tampa Bay's 11th and final hit off the Miami ace came two batters later, when James Loney singled.

From that point, Fernandez reverted back to his dominating self. He struck out Tim Beckham, stranding two.

The sixth inning ended up being Fernandez's most impressive of the night. The hard-throwing right-hander needed just 11 pitches to retire the side in order. Kevin Kiermaier led off with a five-pitch at-bat that ended on a ground ball to third.

Fernandez finished with a flurry, striking out Nick Franklin and John Jaso on six pitches.

Franklin saw three straight off-speed pitches, striking out on an 84-mph breaking ball. And Jaso, after seeing two straight 97-mph fastballs, swung through a 90-mph changeup.

"Coming back, the velocity was there," Fernandez said. "The pitches were there. I'm lucky and blessed to be pitching on the mound."

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.