Marlins brass optimistic about return of Jose Fernandez


Miami Marlins Vice President and General Manager Dan Jennings sat down with MLB Network Radio to discuss his team on Sunday.

The key point of interest in the discussion was the status of team ace Jose Fernandez, who you may recall succumbed to Tommy John surgery last summer and hasn’t pitched since early May 2014.

"With Jose, honestly I think the time table is anywhere from June 15 to July 15, and I think that’s going to be in large part once we go to camp he’s going to start on the mound. He’ll start his progression there, and then there will be a rehab assignment of which, you know, depending upon where that is, I’m sure there will be some down arm periods, dead arm periods. So, somewhere between that 15th of June, 15th of July I think is realistic."

We’ve heard speculation since Fernandez was sidelined about when exactly he would be back on the mound in major league games for the Marlins. For a while the time table was “sometime around the All-Star break,” which is July 13-16. Obviously the team wants him back and healthy as soon as possible, but the Marlins have to think about the short- and long-term health of their ace and of the franchise.

The Marlins rotation behind Fernandez looks strong, but is still probably at least one impact arm away from elite status. Miami’s starting five projects to be Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart, Dan Haren and Tom Koehler. The Marlins missed out on James Shields, and without him are expected to be roughly a .500 team in 2015.

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While the current rotation should manage to keep the team above water, by mid-June the Marlins will have a decision to make, depending on their position in the standings. If Jose Fernandez speeds through his rehab assignment and appears close to being ready, do the Marlins risk rushing him back and possibly damaging him further if they are leading the division? Or, say they find themselves floating right around the .500 mark, do they roll the dice on Fernandez coming back early to propel them into the playoff conversation?

Fernandez returning in June would be quite remarkable. Tommy John recovery time is thought to be 12-18 months. Fernandez’s surgery was on May 16, so a mid-June return would equate to him being out for right at 13 months. But would having Fernandez back for four or five extra starts be worth risking a future second reconstructive elbow surgery?

Dan Jennings doesn’t seem worried. He hasn’t hinted at the need to rush Fernandez back before he’s ready, and seems content to let the first part of the season play out with the guys they have:

"As far as the upgrades, we were very pleased to have the opportunity to bring on a Mat Latos, and someone who has been as consistent number-wise as he’s been. And we felt like if we could get our hands on a guy that has that opportunity to pitch, you know, worst case somewhere from the middle to the front of an organization, then it lessens any pressure that you would have on Jose’s timetable.And then in Dan Haren’s case he’s been a model of consistency, and we all know the story, we’ve talked about it, about his desire to pitch out on the west coast. We’ve had a conversation with him. He is preparing for Spring Training like he’s done, like he’s done any other years and I think he’ll be primed and ready to go. And, to use his own words, he’s looking very forward to being a Miami Marlin."

Even with half a season of Jose Fernandez, the Marlins project to be several wins out of the Wild Card picture. The Nationals are clearly the class of the NL East and should win at least 90 games. ZiPS projects that it should take at least 88 wins to make the postseason in the NL, and the Marlins, at least on paper, look like they aren’t quite there yet.

So let’s hope Jennings’ optimism is warranted, and the Marlins can survive until Jose Fernandez is back.

Next: Buster Olney: Marlins gave highest offer to James Shields