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Marlins' Fernandez fans career-high 1205/26/2012 10:53 PM ET
By Andrew Pentis / Special to MLB.com
When his Greensboro Grasshoppers were preparing to start a five-game series in Delmarva on Thursday, Jose Fernandez traversed the field to meet then-Shorebirds ace Dylan Bundy.
But before Fernandez said anything to his weekend mound counterpart, Bundy broke the news.
"Hey," Bundy told him, "I'm going to High-A tonight."
"No way," Fernandez responded. "We were supposed to pitch against each other. It would have been a good game."
And it was -- even if Bundy, busy pitching in Frederick, wasn't there to see it.
Fernandez, the Marlins' No. 3 prospect, recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts over six innings in the Class A Grasshoppers' 1-0 blanking of the host Shorebirds. He bested replacement Miguel Chalas, who was strong for 5 2/3 frames, but lacks Bundy's star quality.
"Oh, big-time," Fernandez said of his desire to duel Bundy. "I was waiting for it."
With his latest performance, Fernandez improved to 5-0 and grabbed the South Atlantic League lead in ERA (1.67), WHIP (0.96) and, yes, strikeouts (70) over 54 innings in 10 starts.
The 19-year-old right-hander fanned at least two Shorebirds in five of his six innings. With each of his four pitches -- fastball, slider, curveball and changeup -- working, he allowed only three hits and a walk. He faced two over the minimum.
Fernandez was particularly pleased with his slider, the pitch he and his pitching coach focused on in recent bullpen side sessions.
"We've been working for my whole year on my slider," he said. "Today was one of my best games."
Fernandez, who escaped from his native Cuba on his fourth try, already has had a memorable first full season in the pros. The 14th overall pick in last year's Draft pitched two-thirds of the Grasshoppers' combined no-hitter on April 24.
Fernandez also opened the campaign with 10 strikeouts over six strong innings on April 7. Five days later, he proved he could pitch in the cold, limiting the Shorebirds to two hits over five shutout frames.
What does his new career best in strikeouts mean to him, mixed in with his other early-season highlights?
"Not much," he said. "I'm not trying to go out there and try to strike people out. It's just good pitching."
And as good as he was, his reliever was equal. Aside from issuing one free pass, right-hander Gregory Nappo pitched three perfect innings for his first save. Nappo struck out seven, partnering with Fernandez on 19 for the game.
"My bullpen has been working very good," Fernandez said.
The Grasshoppers pushed across the game's lone run in the sixth against Chalas. After being plunked with a pitch, Terrence Dayleg advanced to third base on an error and scored on Josh Adams' sacrifice fly.
Chalas (4-3) gave up three hits and a walk, but he was no Bundy.