'Hoppers' Fernandez stays hot in cold

Cuban pitcher strikes out eight, scatters two hits in five innings

By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com | April 12, 2012 9:52 PM ET

Jose Fernandez made his his second Class A start Thursday, but it wasn't the level of hitters or the pressure of being a 19-year-old professional that worried the Cuban pitcher.

It was the cold.

So the No. 3 Marlins prospect wore an extra pair of socks along with an additional layer of pants and took to the exercise bike beforehand to combat the cooler conditions that would face him as Greensboro traveled to Delmarva. The conditions didn't affect his four pitches, though.

Fernandez (1-0) struck out eight and allowed only two hits in a five shutout innings to lead the Grasshoppers to a 3-2 win over the Shorebirds.

"Everything was working," Fernandez said. "We had a long bus trip the other day, so I was talking along with my pitching coach [Blake McGinley] on what I should focus on and how to deal with the cold. I'm not used to the cold."

Temperatures in Salisbury, Md. -- the home of the Shorebirds -- started at 57 degrees but dipped into the 40s as the game proceeded.

Nonetheless, the 6-foot-3 righty -- whose arsenal consists of fastball, curveball, changeup and slider -- struck out four of the first six batters he faced, two swinging and two looking. Only two Delmarva players reached scoring position in Fernandez's five innings of work. And when they did in the third and fifth frames, the 19-year-old responded by getting both of the following batters to strike out swinging to end the innings.

This year marks Fernandez's first as a full-season professional, provided he can stay healthy. He was the Marlins' first-round pick (14th overall) in 2011 and signed just before the Aug. 16 deadline for a reported $2 million after playing for Tampa Alonso High School months before. He made two appearances -- one for the GCL Marlins and Class A Short Season Jamestown -- but neither lasted longer than 2 1/3 innings.

Because of his brief time as a pro, Fernandez notes he's still going through a transition period.

"Everything is good, but I have some stuff I'm working on," he said. "I was just in high school last year, so I'm still getting used to wood bats. Also playing every day is something new. But I'm working with my pitching coach a lot, and my teammates are helping a lot too. I love my teammates."

Greensboro boasts a 6-2 record following Thursday's win and is tied with Hickory for the best record in the South Atlantic League in the early going.

With Thursday's outing, Fernandez's season ERA dropped to 1.64, following an opener in which he allowed two runs over six innings.

Shortstop Terrence Dayleg hit a solo home run for the Grasshoppers in the eighth, and designated hitter Ryan McIntyre went 2-for-4 with an RBI double.

Delmarva right fielder Brenden Webb tripled and doubled, and he was the only player with more than two hits for the Shorebirds.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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