Fernandez takes up-and-down start in stride

Fernandez takes up-and-down start in stride

JUPITER, Fla. -- An impressive first two innings turned quickly into a rough outing for Marlins ace Jose Fernandez on Thursday, as the 23-year-old was touched for six runs on five hits in a 6-5 loss to the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium.

The final result was perplexing, considering how Fernandez simply dominated the first six batters he faced, striking out four of them. But the lesson learned is the second time through the order can lead to trouble, and he was lifted after 3 2/3 innings.

"I felt good. I stuck to the game plan," Fernandez said. "There were things I wanted to do. I think I accomplished a lot of them. The results weren't there, but I worked on the stuff I wanted to work. Obviously, nobody likes to give up runs. I'm not too happy about it."

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Physically, Fernandez had electric stuff. He struck out Curtis Granderson to open the game on an 83-mph changeup. In the second inning, he caught Wilmer Flores looking at a 98-mph fastball.

But the results changed in the third inning when he was pitching out of the stretch, and he gave up two runs. Fernandez wasn't able to make it through the fourth as New York had five straight batters reach safely with two outs.

Fernandez faced three of them.

What changed while throwing out of the stretch?

"I was probably rushing a little bit," Fernandez said. "I needed to stay back a little bit. There were some good pitches there, from the stretch too. But they put some better swings than the pitches."

Manager Don Mattingly didn't fret over the outing, noting the adversity may help his young right-hander over the long run.

"That's kind of good, from the standpoint of seeing where we're at," Mattingly said. "Make sure we're continuing to move forward. I know he's still working on stuff. He's trying to stay under control for us and do all those things. I'm sure he's frustrated with that. I'd rather see that now than later."

Fernandez threw 60 pitches.

The Marlins have yet to announce their Opening Day starter. Based on talent, Fernandez is the obvious choice, but there is no guarantee he will get the ball against the Tigers on April 5. In fact, lefty Wei-Yin Chen is on track to pitch Opening Day, with Fernandez on pace to go in the second game, scheduled April 6.

Mattingly said he is close to naming the Opening Day starter. Fernandez will be on an innings range of about 180, and the team is figuring out how best to maximize his performances. So there are some ideas being considered to elongate his season, perhaps including reducing his starts in April.

"I'm expecting to be whatever they decide is best for the team," Fernandez said.

Ideally, Fernandez would like to start on Opening Day, because that is the dream of all pitchers.

"You ask that to every pitcher in the big leagues," Fernandez said. "Every pitcher wants to pitch on Opening Day, including me."

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.