The Miami Marlins knew their young pitching staff would be a work in progress this season. But no one expected major changes a day before the season opener.
The Marlins on Sunday announced that 20-year-old super-prospect Jose Fernandez, a right-hander, will be on the opening day roster because of shoulder injuries to starters Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.
Fernandez, who finished last season with Class A Jupiter, will start next Sunday’s game against the Mets in New York.
“It’s crazy. It’s fun. It’s incredible,” said Fernandez, who got news of his promotion Friday night in a phone call from owner Jeffrey Loria.
“I didn’t even know what to do. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. It was crazy. I was pretty nervous.’’
The pitching matchup for Monday’s opener at Washington (1:05 p.m., FSN) is Ricky Nolasco — the only returning veteran in Miami’s rotation — against Stephen Strasburg.
Eovaldi, the No. 2 starter, and Alvarez, the No. 4 starter, are on the disabled list. The team hopes they can return by May 1, if not sooner. The other pitcher joining the staff is minor leaguer Alex Sanabia, who was 5-3 with the Marlins in 2010.
“Obviously not perfect. That’s not how we drew it up, but it is what it is,” manager Mike Redmond said.
Fernandez, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2011, will be limited to 150-170 innings this season. He was supposed to open the year at Class AA Jacksonville.
“This has been tugging at us a little bit,” Beinfest said about the urge to promote Fernandez to the majors. “When we got word that Alvarez was not going to make opening day, we started to talk about what we were going to do to fill in. Jose was always there.”
After consulting everyone from Loria to their minor league staff, Beinfest said, “the sense was this kid is ready to handle it here. He’s ready to pitch here.”
Still, not many pitchers have made the jump from Class A to the major leagues. Fernandez opened the 2012 season at low-Class A Greensboro in the South Atlantic League and finised with the high-Class A Hammerheads in the Florida State League.
He went a combined 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 25 starts last year, striking out 158 and walking 35 in 134 innings.
“I know this has the potential to have some criticism. The guy hasn’t pitched in Double-A. This is a valuable asset,” Beinfest said.
“We understand the asset we have have, the value of him, his age, and we’re going to do whatever we can do to do things in his best interests.”
Fernandez made one Grapefruit League appearance, striking out two in two scoreless innings. He also pitched well in an appearance against Team Venezuela and was dominant in his last three spring starts in minor league games, striking out 19 in 12 innings while allowing a run on three hits.
“He demonstrated everything from maturity, to physical strength, to the quality of the pitches that he can do it,” Beinfest said.
Redmond was a Marlins catcher when the team promoted two top pitching prospects: Josh Beckett in 2001 and Dontrelle Willis in 2003.
“I remember those guys coming up and the impact they had on the team at a young age. This is a very similar situation,” Redmond said. “(Fernandez) has the pitches, he’s got the makeup, he’s got the confidence.. I think this is going be a great challenge for him to earn his stripes in the big leagues against the best.”
The rotation for Week 1 will be Nolasco, Kevin Slowey and Wade LeBlanc in Washington with Sanabia followed by Nolasco and Fernandez in New York. The Marlins are off Tuesday.
On Monday, the batting order will be Juan Pierre in left field followed by Chris Coghlan (CF), Giancarlo Stanton (RF), Placido Polanco (3B), Jeff Brantly (C), Donovan Solano (2B), Casey Kotchman (1B), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS) and Nolasco.
Redmond said Coghlan, a left-handed hitter, and Justin Ruggiano, who bats right-handed, will platoon in center for now.
“If one of them obviously takes off, they’re going to get the bulk of the playing,” Redmond said.
The opening day lineup has only one holdover from last year’s Game 1. Last year the left fielder was Logan Morrison, who is on the disabled list while recovering from a knee procedure. The center fielder was Emilio Bonifacio, who went to Toronto in the big November trade. Stanton returns in right.
The infield is totally remade. Last year, Hanley Ramirez (traded to the Dodgers in July) was at third, with Jose Reyes (traded to Toronto) at short, Omar Infante (traded to Detroit) at second base and Gaby Sanchez (traded to Pittsburgh) at first base. The catcher was John Buck (traded to Toronto). The opening day starter was Josh Johnson, who also was dealt to Toronto.