Excited Fernandez cleared for throwing program

Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Marlins ace to toss from 30 feet on Oct. 1

Excited Fernandez cleared for throwing program

MIAMI -- A familiar face was loosening his glove and shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice on Friday afternoon at Marlins Park. Jose Fernandez was once again where he's most comfortable: on the baseball field with a ball in his hand.

In 12 days, Fernandez can start working once again on the craft of pitching, as the Marlins' ace has been cleared to begin his throwing program. The date will be Oct. 1, when the 22-year-old can start throwing, initially for a few minutes from 30 feet. At that point, Fernandez will gradually build up from the Tommy John surgery that ended his season on May 16.

Fernandez spent Wednesday and Thursday in Los Angeles being examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the orthopedic surgeon who performed his right elbow surgery. ElAttrache officially cleared Fernandez, the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner who likely will be back in big league action around the All-Star break next year.

"A lot of good news came out of that visit," Fernandez said. "I'm really excited. I'm feeling great. I feel like I didn't have the surgery, so I think that's good news. The good news is everything is good."

An exact timeline has yet to be determined. Generally, 14 months is the recommended amount, but that doesn't mean it can't be a little shorter or longer.

"I think we're going on how we feel," Fernandez said.

Fernandez doesn't want to build any false hope, so he is taking a cautious approach when pinpointing an exact date for his return.

"I don't want to get disappointed in myself, and basically whatever day it is, I would love for it to be a home game," Fernandez said. "I would prefer that, but if it's in Canada, I don't mind. I just want to be pitching and help my team and give my team a chance to win."

Since he has been out, Fernandez has routinely stopped by Marlins Park. When he can, he regularly has stood in the outfield during batting practice, running down balls and throwing them back with his left hand.

When October rolls around, Fernandez plans on being in Miami to start his throwing program.

Being ready for Opening Day seems highly unrealistic, but when it comes to injuries, each recovery time is different. Fernandez said he could be ready for the opener, or may be not until September..

"It will depend on how I feel," he said. "The last month, I feel like I didn't have the surgery. I feel 100 percent. We'll go with a plan and try to follow what they say."

Fernandez made eight starts this season, and he was 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings when his right elbow gave up during a start in San Diego on May 9.

The Marlins will give Fernandez the necessary time to come back completely ready.

"I learned a long time ago that whenever you're dealing with injuries, you don't speculate," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We listen to our medical staff, we follow their direction. We know it's a process. We're extremely happy with where he is at this moment and the work he's put in with the early stages of his rehab. But there is still a number of steps to go. We're cautiously optimistic."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.