Present, future arms come together in Marlins camp
Nolasco, Fernandez represent best retooling Miami has to offer on mound
JUPITER, Fla. -- With little fanfare, Ricky Nolasco goes about his business. He is level and low key, and he likes it that way.
The 30-year-old has been a fixture in the Marlins' rotation, and he holds the franchise record in wins (76), strikeouts (911), innings pitched (1,113 1/3) and games started (179). Nolasco also is the lone holdover from the rotation that opened last year for Miami. The Southern California native is in the final year of his contract, and he may wind up being dealt by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"It is a big year," Nolasco acknowledged. "But every year is a big year. I'm just trying to stay the same -- stay level headed and not put any extra pressure on myself."
Jose Fernandez, meanwhile, is a hard-throwing 20-year-old sensation who is regarded as one of the best prospects in the game. Brash and confident, he is a rising star on the fast track to reach the big leagues. He has astronomical expectations and isn't afraid to say it.
"I want to be the best," Fernandez said. "I'm not going to lie. I say it every time that I can. I want to be the best, and that's what I work for. I don't want to be the second best. I want to be the best."
With big projections comes more attention.
"It's fine," he said. "I've worked for it. It's all right."
On Tuesday morning, the Marlins officially opened Spring Training workouts at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. Nolasco and Fernandez represent the old and the new for the organization that has moved in a youthful direction.
Manager Mike Redmond is banking on Nolasco's experience to help the progression of a young rotation.
"To have a guy who obviously has been in the big leagues is big," Redmond said. "We're young, and he's young, too. He's not that old. But anybody who has taken the ball in the big leagues and has gone through a Major League season is going to be huge."
Fernandez, even if he dominates in Spring Training, is projected to start off at Double-A Jacksonville.
As drills get under way, Nolasco is ready to move forward. A couple of months ago, there were questions to whether the right-hander would still be with the team.
After Miami overturned a majority of its roster, there was speculation that Nolasco, the team's highest-paid player at $11.5 million, would also be moved. During the Winter Meetings, his agent, Matt Sosnick, publicly stated his client wished to be traded. What was said then, Nolasco says now, is behind him.
"I'm just moving forward," Nolasco said. "Anything that has happened in the past is not going to be talked about any more. I'm just trying to come out here this spring, meet all my teammates, move forward and try to stay healthy this year."
There has been so much negativity sweeping the team since the roster turned, Nolasco isn't getting swept up into more of it.
"You stay positive," Nolasco said. "You look around here. You only think of the best. You don't think of the bad stuff, otherwise, it's going to be bad for everybody. You stay positive, that's part of being professional. You try to help as many people as you can come together, so that we can do the best that we can."
Nolasco has won at least 10 games in five straight seasons. A year ago, he was 12-13 with a 4.48 ERA in 31 starts.
Entering his eighth season with the Marlins, Nolasco has been part of a roster turnover before. He was part of the 2006 squad that had more than 20 rookies on it over the course of the season. That team was expected to lose more than 100 games, and it ended up 78-84.
"People are saying there are similarities, and I'm sure there are," Nolasco said. "We're trying to just move forward and come together as a team. Everybody is going to be positive, stay positive, so nobody is thinking negative."
Fernandez is clearly upbeat about his first big league camp. Armed with a 97 mph fastball, Fernandez is a presence. The 20-year-old right-hander also represents a big part of the franchise's future. Miami's first-round pick in 2011, Fernandez was born in Cuba and defected to the United States.
Fernandez dominated at Class A Greensboro and advanced Class A Jupiter a year ago, combining for a 14-1 record with a 1.75 ERA, with 158 strikeouts in 134 innings. Ranked seventh on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospect list, Fernandez has the makings of a future ace.
Because there are 38 pitchers in camp and the big league roster has spots to fill, chances are the Marlins will give Fernandez a taste of big league camp for a few weeks and then send him down.
Fernandez's objective is to become a big leaguer. Whatever decision the organization makes, he understands, is out of his hands.
"I don't have a plan, that's the thing," Fernandez said. "I don't have a plan. My plan is wherever they pitch me, to get outs. And try to win games and help my team win. I don't have a plan. I don't want to have a plan. Let them do what they think is better for me."
If Fernandez shows signs that he is ready now, the front office has to weigh whether the right-hander is truly ready for the rigors of the big leagues.
"You just stick to the plan," Redmond said. "Obviously, we want to see him. You look at his numbers and everybody who talks about him talks so highly of him. He's definitely a guy we want to see.
"He's part of future of the Marlins, and he's going to be a big part of it when that day comes. But I've never seen him pitch, but neither has our pitching coach or anybody else. He will be in there. He will get some opportunities to pitch and show what he can do."