Fernandez holds nothing back facing Yanks

Marlins right-hander strikes out seven in final spring tuneup

Fernandez holds nothing back facing Yanks

MIAMI -- You couldn't convince Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez that Friday night was just another Spring Training start. The thrill of being back on the mound in a big league park -- and facing the Yankees -- gave the 23-year-old an adrenaline boost.

Fernandez was especially pumped up to face Alex Rodriguez, whom he grew up admiring as a child in Cuba. The intensity picked up as the game progressed, and the Yankees rallied behind Lane Adams' two-run homer in the ninth to pick up a 3-2 win at Marlins Park.

To Fernandez, Friday night felt more like the regular season than his final spring tuneup.

"I was pitching the seventh game of the World Series today," Fernandez said. "Everything I do normally in the regular season, I did today. So to me, this was a very important game."

After six weeks of being housed in Jupiter, Fla., and going through the daily grind of Spring Training, Fernandez was certainly energized in his four-inning performance, giving up one run on two hits with seven strikeouts.

"Jose is always jacked up, no matter if he is on the back field in Jupiter or pitching against our guys, Jose is pretty much the same," manager Don Mattingly said.

Since Fernandez has already been stretched out to 90-plus pitches, the plan was to get him around 50 on Friday. He was exactly at that number, throwing 41 for strikes.

Fernandez came out throwing heat. In the first inning, he struck out Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Rodriguez in order on 10 pitches, all strikes. All three strikeouts came on breaking pitches. Rodriguez struck out on three pitches, including a pair of 98-mph heaters. Fernandez was especially ready to face Rodriguez.

"Not amped up, but you know that he has done really good things in this game," Fernandez said. "When I was getting stretched out, I said, 'I can't believe when I was little in Cuba -- at 15, I got here -- I used to look up to A-Rod, and the way he hit. He was with the Yankees.

"I'm going to pitch against him today. Someone told me, 'You need to strike him out.' I am going to try. But all due respect in the world for what he's done in this game."

Fernandez actually got Rodriguez twice, striking him out again in the fourth inning.

"You probably put a little more in there, but that's with the big guys, [Bryce] Harper, all the big guys," Fernandez said. "You have to get after it."

The only mark on Fernandez's night was the home run he allowed to Gardner to open the fourth. Otherwise, he enjoyed an impressive outing.

"The pitch was a pretty good pitch," Fernandez said. "He put an amazing swing on it. It felt good coming out of my hand, and it was the location that I wanted it. It was just a very good swing. Those guys, from one to nine, you can't cruise."

The next time Fernandez takes the mound will be on Wednesday against the Tigers in the Marlins' second game. The right-hander impressed in Spring Training, striking out 24 in 18 1/3 innings.

"Every pitch I was really getting after it," he said. "There was no Spring Training working on stuff. I was trying to get people out."

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.