VIERA, Fla. -- Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, will start the team's Opening Day game on March 31 against the Rockies in Miami. Manager Mike Redmond made the not-so-surprising announcement on Sunday, before the Marlins faced the Nationals in a Grapefruit League game at Space Coast Stadium.
The 21-year-old Fernandez will become the youngest Opening Day starter in team history. Josh Beckett was 22 when he took the mound for the 2003 opener. The last Major League pitcher younger than Fernandez to start on Opening Day was the Mariners' Felix Hernandez, who was 20 in '07.
"We're going to tell him this afternoon," Redmond said of Fernandez, who did not make the trip to Viera. "It was gonna happen, obviously, anyways. It's not like it's big news, but I know he's excited about it. It'll be great to see him out there on Opening Day, and I look forward to it."
The honor caps a whirlwind 12 months for the 21-year-old, who seemed ticketed for the Minors at this time a year ago, before injuries in the Marlins' rotation helped push him onto the club's Opening Day roster. He never looked back, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA in 28 starts and striking out 187 batters in 172 2/3 innings.
"I think every player remembers their first Opening Day start, whether you're a position player or a pitcher," Redmond said. "I think about how far he's come in the last year, from last year slated to maybe go to Double-A to pitching in the big leagues starting the season and winning Rookie of the Year. So that's a pretty amazing year. And he just keeps going. Opening Day starter, which is a day he'll remember for the rest of his life."
Fernandez made his Grapefruit League debut on Friday, tossing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts against the Cardinals.
"It felt like it was Opening Day," Fernandez said afterward. "It feels good to feel like that in the first Spring Training game. Obviously, I'm on the team, but I'm still going out there to do the best I can, to get better."
Fernandez is slated to take the ball again on Wednesday against the Mets in Port St. Lucie and will be on track to be ready for Opening Day from there. With the Marlins beginning at home, Fernandez will make the start at Marlins Park, where he posted a 1.19 ERA and held opponents to a .164 batting average in 15 starts last season.
"He's a fun guy to watch pitch. He's energetic," Redmond said. "He competes and pitches great at our ballpark. It's a big park, so he's able to be aggressive and he created a lot of excitement, and that's exactly what we needed last year."
Hand makes his case with two solid innings
VIERA, Fla. -- Brad Hand made his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday afternoon against the Nationals, looking to take his first step toward a spot on the Marlins' Opening Day roster.
Hand, who could be an option as the No. 5 starter or in long relief, threw the first two innings of a 10-3 loss to the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. The left-hander gave up one run on two hits, with no walks and two strikeouts.
"I felt pretty good. Everything was working pretty well," Hand said. "I was coming out, my first start of the spring and just wanted to throw strikes, get ahead of hitters, get ready for the season."
Hand did throw strikes, but ran into a little tough luck in the first inning. With one out, he struck out Ian Desmond, but the ball got past catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for what was ruled a wild pitch. Ryan Zimmerman then reached on a soft infield single before Wilson Ramos lined an RBI single to left field.
Still, Hand was able to retire five straight batters to end his outing, relying mostly on his fastball and curveball, while sprinkling in two or three changeups. He was followed by lefty Brian Flynn, another potential rotation candidate, who gave up two runs in two innings, on an Adam LaRoche home run.
This is an important spring for Hand, a former second-round Draft pick who turns 24 on March 20. After pitching 20 games for the Marlins over the past three years and going 2-10 with a 4.48 ERA, Hand is out of options and could wind up going to another organization if he can't stick with Miami.
"I'm not worried about it too much, just going out and trying to pitch," Hand said. "Can't really make them make a decision. Just go out and pitch well in the spring and see what happens."
Rodriguez reports to camp after visa issue
VIERA, Fla. -- Relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez, a non-roster invitee this spring, has reported to Marlins camp after finally resolving a visa issue in his native Venezuela. If the right-hander passes a physical on Sunday, he could take the field with the club on Monday.
The Marlins signed the 27-year-old to a Minor League deal in January, after he spent last season with the Nationals and Cubs. A hard thrower with a history of control problems, Rodriguez appeared in 22 games overall, posting a 4.09 ERA, striking out 12 and walking 20 in 22 innings.
Miami manager Mike Redmond said that, assuming Rodriguez has been keeping up with his throwing while in Venezuela, he would not necessarily be very far off the pace. As a short reliever, he likely doesn't need a lot of time to build up his arm, but Redmond wants to get him on the mound to see where he is at this point.
"He's a couple weeks behind. It's just the way it goes," Redmond said. "It's nothing that really we can do about it now. It's just a matter now of getting him in camp and building him up, seeing where he's at, as far as his arm and how good a shape he's in, and start kind of planning out a progression for him to get out on the field and show us what he can do."
• Reliever Carlos Marmol, who has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game this spring, had to return home to the Dominican Republic on Saturday afternoon to attend to a visa issue. The best-case scenario, according to Redmond, is that the righty will return Monday night, but it could take up to a couple of days longer.
• Righty Henderson Alvarez, who originally was scheduled to start on Sunday before sustaining a right shin infection, is feeling better, playing catch and doing some light jogging, according to Redmond. Although plans could change, the Marlins hope to have Alvarez pitch on Friday against the Cardinals.