Jose in it for long haul, will start again Thursday

Fernandez sticks to innings limit plan in order to be available for playoff run

Jose in it for long haul, will start again Thursday

MIAMI -- If everything goes according to script, skipping Jose Fernandez on Sunday will enable the All-Star right-hander to be available for the rest of the season, as well as the postseason, should the Marlins secure a spot.

Fernandez was lined up to start on Sunday against the White Sox and Chris Sale, but in the revised rotation, the Marlins' ace will next take the mound on Thursday at Cincinnati. He was originally set to take the mound Friday, but he got moved up a day when Adam Conley went on the disabled list.

"We haven't changed any part of the plan, at any point," Fernandez said on Friday. "We're following the plan, amazingly."

The Marlins mapped out a schedule for Fernandez in Spring Training, which called for him to throw about 180 innings in the regular season. The plan also built in two skipped starts, with one before the All-Star break and one in August.

With last Thursday's day off, the Marlins decided Sunday would be the appropriate time to give their hard-throwing right-hander a breather.

"We want to make him available for that last day or games," manager Don Mattingly said.

Barring anything unforeseen, Sunday also will be the last time Fernandez is skipped.

Tom Koehler will start in place of Fernandez on Sunday, and David Phelps will go on Monday at Cincinnati. The club plans on calling up a pitcher from the Minor Leagues to start on Tuesday.

The Marlins are being cautious with Fernandez because he underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2014, and he threw 64 2/3 innings in 2015. In 22 starts this season, Fernandez, who is 12-6 with a 2.81 ERA, is at 137 2/3 innings.

Fernandez's 14 strikeouts

"We're obviously looking at the later picture, those last games," Fernandez said. "We're following the plan. I think we're like two or three innings over. It's perfect. If we make it [to the playoffs], it looks like everything will be good."

Fernandez could make nine more starts, and the way things are set up, he would be available to pitch in the final game of the regular season, should Miami need that game to reach the postseason. Depending on how the races play out, he also could be ready to go for the elimination National League Wild Card Game.

The Marlins made it clear, if they reach the postseason, they don't want to be in a position to shut Fernandez down.

"We don't need all of that attention in the media," Fernandez said. "I know that's tough. We want to focus on winning ballgames."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. 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.