Jose preparing to make at least 2 more starts

Marlins ace's innings will depend on club's postseason status

Jose preparing to make at least 2 more starts

MIAMI -- Since the beginning of Spring Training, the Marlins set a flexible innings mark of 180 for Jose Fernandez. The 24-year-old All-Star is primed to top that number on Tuesday, which raises the question of whether Tuesday's matchup with the Nationals will be his final start.

Fernandez is preparing for at least two more starts: Tuesday, and Sunday against the Braves. Both games are at Marlins Park, but his availability is subject to change -- depending on whether Miami, which was five games back heading into Monday's game -- is eliminated from Wild Card contention.

In Fernandez's first full season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 16, 2014, the Marlins adhered to a plan of keeping Fernandez at about 180 innings. He's at 174 1/3 in 28 starts.

Manager Don Mattingly on Monday noted that the team doesn't want the hard-throwing right-hander to throw too many unnecessary innings.

"We talked about the 180 range, and talking with Jose the last few days, he feels great," Mattingly said. "Obviously, we don't want him to throw innings that we don't need him to throw. But I think we're still paying close attention to him. I know he has his mind set on three more starts, but we have to be mindful of depending on how it goes and where it goes with what we do with him."

Fernandez is 15-8 with a 2.99 ERA, and his 241 strikeouts are second in the Majors to Washington's Max Scherzer, who has 259 in 210 2/3 innings.

If the Marlins were to go on a roll and play for a playoff spot in the final week, Fernandez would likely be ready to go.

But for now?

"I'm getting ready to pitch tomorrow and getting ready to pitch on Sunday, that's what I'm scheduled for," Fernandez said.

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.