Marlins, Fernandez to discuss workload plan

Ace righty expected to pitch around 180 innings in 2016

Marlins, Fernandez to discuss workload plan

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez is healthy and set to pitch at the top of the Marlins' rotation. Still to be determined, however, is how to best maximize the innings the 23-year-old right-hander will throw in 2016.

Miami is in the process of outlining an innings range for its ace, which is expected to be around 180. Exactly how the breakdown will shape up has yet to be decided. But shortly after Spring Training gets underway, the team and Fernandez will discuss his situation.

Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said on Tuesday the club will "speak to Jose and the doctors" and come up with a tentative plan. The organization notes that it will finalize the innings range before Opening Day, which is April 5, at home against the Tigers.

Miami's pitchers and catchers begin Spring Training on Friday at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.

Fernandez is expected to be the Opening Day starter, but manager Don Mattingly has yet to make any announcements regarding the rotation.

Waltz on Fernandez, Marlins

Fernandez, who underwent Tommy John surgery on May 16, 2014, made 11 starts in '15 and threw 64 2/3 innings. The 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner -- after striking out 187 and posting a 2.19 ERA in 172 2/3 innings -- has thrown 116 1/3 big league innings the past two seasons.

During a May 9, 2014, start at San Diego, Fernandez complained about elbow discomfort. Tests revealed a torn ligament in his throwing elbow, and a week later, he had Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in California.

Outlook: Fernandez, SP, MIA

Fernandez is represented by agent Scott Boras, who in recent years was heavily involved in the innings limits for two of his other clients coming back from Tommy John surgery -- Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg and Mets right-hander Matt Harvey.

"There's going to be a range [of innings] discussed with the team and the doctors involved," Boras told FoxSports.com.

Fernandez made his 2015 debut on July 2, and he quickly regained his All-Star form. The right-hander finished last season 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA, and he struck out 79 while walking 14.

Last August, Fernandez had another injury scare when he suffered a right biceps strain, which caused him to miss five weeks.

If the Marlins are to contend, they will be counting on Fernandez to pitch at a high level. But along the way, the club will have to monitor his use.

One suggestion is to simply line Fernandez up for 30 starts and not allow him to exceed six innings, which is one way to get to 180. Or periodically skip a start or two over the long season.

In his career, Fernandez has never had an outing longer than eight innings, a mark that he's reached on five occasions.

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.