"Honestly, I thought I was going to be like a month out," Fernandez said. "A month rehab, get back, no big deal."
Unfortunately Fernandez was overly optimistic and learned that he had a torn UCL and required Tommy John surgery. It’s already been a week, and the Marlins still feel the pain and the loss.
"It's a big blow for us, but you gotta keep going. The games continue," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "You know he's going through a tough time, but we know he's on the road to recovery. A lot of guys come back and pitch the same or even better, and as tough as it is to see him in this sling, we know he's going to be back and ready to compete. Who knows when that day is going to be, but I know he's going to work hard and do what he has to do to get himself back."
All of the precaution and preventive measures by management that are usually dismissed as "babying" was for not. As described by Fernandez during his media conference on Tuesday, he was betrayed by his youth.
He said he felt the pain during his last home start against the Los Angeles Dodgers but didn’t think much of it and continued on. The pinch didn't seem to both him during that start. He struck out ten batters in one of the most exciting home games this season.
"It never popped, it was just a little pinch," Fernandez said. "I don't think I altered my delivery. Everything was the same because I was trying to not let anybody see that I was in a little pain. I was trying to pitch with it without anybody knowing, not even [catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia]. I didn't think it was anything to worry about.
"Pitchers feel that all the time when they throw hard stuff. I went through my bullpen and everything was fine."
Once the slumping San Diego Padres knocked five runs out of him a week later, the team knew something was wrong and it wasn't just food poisoning.
It’s absolutely foolish for anyone to continue on after feeling any form of pain in their arm. Former Marlins ace and current Phillies starter A.J. Burnett going out and pitching through the pain of a hernia is the lone exception because on a one-year deal, he is trying to literally get every last pitch out of him. He’s also surprisingly and miraculously pitching well too. He struck out five Marlins in five innings while giving up three runs in a 6-5 victory on Tuesday.
Understand where Fernandez is coming from -- defected Cuba with his mother at the age of 15 -- and knowing that his family and his team are the only two valuables is quite understandable.
"I know health and all that stuff comes first for some people. To me, my team comes first and that's just who I am, and I wish I could change it and hopefully I can learn from it. I'm still happy with the decision.”
The surgery was not the only option for Fernandez, it was the best option, the fool proof option.
"[Having the surgery] was the smartest way and the safest way to have a long career,” Fernandez continued. “I might have been able to rehab and come back, but probably not the way I wanted to. To me, this is just a little bump in the road. It's something I've got to learn from. I hope I'll be better. I can't wait to get back. It's going to be a special day."
In the interim, the Marlins have brought in veteran Randy Wolf and prospect Anthony DeSclafani who was acquired through the Toronto trade. DeSclafani had a fantastic game in Los Angeles during his debut (6 IP, 2 ER, 2 RBI) but struggled against the Phillies on Tuesday. Five earned runs in 5.1 innings and two strikeouts froze his bat.
Wolf pitched in both DeSclafani starts and has given up only one run in five innings of long relief. It would not be a surprise if he moves into the rotation and it would actually be ironic. Wolf came out of Tommy John last year and stressed to Fernandez to trust the process and do not rush it. Rushing the rehab process will put Fernandez at risk of suffering the same fate as Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson, who re-tore his UCL during a rehab assignment last year.
A successful homestand will help the healing process for the Marlins. They’ll eventually get over this and move on. Fernandez wouldn’t have it any other way.