First bullpen session has Opening Day feel for Jose

First bullpen session has Opening Day feel for Jose

JUPITER, Fla. -- It wasn't the atmosphere of Opening Day, but throwing off the mound for the first time in Spring Training on Saturday afternoon was reason to celebrate for Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.

A year ago at this time, the hard-throwing right-hander was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he already knew he would miss about half the season. The only restrictions he faces now is knowing he will be on an innings limit of around 180.

Other than that, everything is back to normal for Fernandez.

On Saturday, he was throwing free and easy to catcher J.T. Realmuto during his 40-pitch bullpen session at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

Admittedly, Fernandez had some jitters.

"I think the first bullpen you do, it's kind of like you can't wait to get out there," the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year said. "It's kind of like a previous Opening Day. It's great. I'm happy to be out here throwing the ball. My arm feels great. My legs feel great. I feel in great shape. I'm just lucky to be here."

Fernandez made 11 starts and was 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 2015.

Like the rest of the pitchers throwing bullpen sessions on Saturday, Fernandez is tossing off the mound every other day. So he is lined up to toss his second session on Monday.

"I feel great. It was fun to be back out there," Fernandez said. "I was going crazy all night and all morning. We had FanFest this morning, and I couldn't wait to get here and throw a bullpen."

It was a hectic day for the pitchers, who bused early in the morning from Jupiter to Marlins Park in Miami for FanFest. They returned to Roger Dean Stadium mid-afternoon, and were back on the field at 4 p.m. ET.

"It's just fun to throw again and to pitch," Fernandez said. "That's what we love to do, and that's what we're here 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.