Unhittable Fernandez in prime form vs. Boston

Marlins ace nearly perfect, striking out four across five efficient frames

Unhittable Fernandez in prime form vs. Boston

JUPITER, Fla. -- Jose Fernandez isn't messing around.

It doesn't matter if it is Spring Training or the regular season; the 23-year-old right-hander is committed to reaching another level. On Tuesday afternoon, he moved in that direction with five hitless, nearly perfect innings during the Marlins' 3-0 win over the Red Sox at Roger Dean Stadium.

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Just about in regular-season form, Fernandez breezed through a Red Sox lineup featuring regulars Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez, among others.

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"Fernandez is a pretty rare animal," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Power stuff, aggressive, good breaking ball. He was dominant."

Fernandez, already tabbed to start the Marlins' second regular-season game, issued a two-out walk to Travis Shaw in the first inning but was otherwise perfect over his 60 pitches, throwing 41 strikes.

"I've been feeling good," Fernandez said. "There are always things you've got to work on and things you've got to get better at. In my last start, the result wasn't there, but I felt like the location was good and the pitches were good. Today, I was trying to keep the same thing."

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Fernandez had mixed results in his outing against the Mets on Thursday, when he was charged with six runs in 3 2/3 innings. But on that day, he was perfect through two frames with four strikeouts before a couple of innings got away from him.

A determined Fernandez got back to work between starts and felt things clicked in a bullpen session. He even spoke with hitting coach Barry Bonds to pick up pointers on what hitters might be expecting.

"I'm trying different things, different approaches," Fernandez said.

One priority for Fernandez is improving his changeup, which the righty used effectively against the Red Sox.

"I've been working on it a lot in the offseason," Fernandez said. "It's going to keep the hitters guessing a little more. It's something I'm going to look forward to using."

According to Fangraphs, 12.7 percent of Fernandez's pitches last season were changeups, up from 10.9 percent in '14.

In an effort to preserve his arm, as well as be more well rounded, Fernandez is striving to work more off his fastball, changing speeds and mixing in his secondary pitches.

"It's something that takes away from the breaking balls," Fernandez said of his changeup. "It helps you take care of your arm and your body more."

The hard-throwing right-hander even hit a single in the fourth inning off Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright.

"I know he's a good hitter; for a pitcher, he can swing it," Wright said of giving up a hit to Fernandez. "I figured, the first one, he didn't swing. I knew he was probably going to be aggressive. I was just trying to throw a strike there. He's not Giancarlo; he's not going to be able to get it out with this wind. I was just like, 'Hey, if he puts it in play, maybe if he rolls it over. That saves me four or five pitches.' But I'm not going to sit there and try to fall behind to any pitcher."

Fernandez's fastball maxed out at 98 mph in the fourth inning. In the first, he struck out Ramirez on an 83-mph curveball, and three innings later, he caught Shaw looking at a 97-mph heater.

"He was good," manager Don Mattingly said. "He continues to work his changeup. He threw a few breaking balls in there, too. He was ahead in the count, attacking the zone. Really nice."

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.