<
>

Marlins pick Wei-Yin Chen over Jose Fernandez for opener

JUPITER, Fla. -- Veteran left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start the Miami Marlins' season opener against the Detroit Tigers on April 5 at Marlins Park, and staff ace Jose Fernandez will pitch the next day in conjunction with the team's plan to limit him to about 180 regular-season innings, manager Don Mattingly announced Sunday at the team's spring training complex.

Mattingly said the Marlins mapped out the 2016 schedule and found that Fernandez can make more than half his starts with an extra day's rest under the plan that's in place. Mattingly was involved in the decision along with Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, the organization's pitching coaches, Fernandez's agent, Scott Boras, and the doctors who have been involved in the pitcher's recovery from Tommy John surgery in May 2014.

The Marlins wanted to clarify the plan for Fernandez in spring training after watching some issues arise with Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals and Matt Harvey of the New York Mets, Mattingly said.

"I know I've watched from afar -- Harvey's situation last year and Strasburg [in 2012],'' Mattingly said. "It always seemed to me like, 'Why don't we have this set from the start and try to map this whole thing out?' Obviously, things change. He could turn an ankle and miss three starts and change your plan. We're just trying to have some kind of plan where everybody understands the situation and everyone is on board.

"In general, we've talked about a range of 180 innings. How do we use those 180 through the course of a whole season, and not talk about stopping a guy's year at some point?''

The Marlins are treading cautiously with Fernandez, who begins the season at 23 years old and has pitched a combined 116 1/3 innings in the majors over the past two years because of injury. He returned from his elbow reconstruction in early July to throw 64 2/3 innings in 2015.

Fernandez spoke to reporters for several minutes after Mattingly's announcement and expressed mild disappointment over missing the season opener, but said he has no issues with the decision because it's for the best of the team.

"Of course, everybody wants to pitch Opening Day,'' Fernandez said. "I was talking to A.J. Ramos and I said, 'You'd really like to start, and you're a closer.' It's an amazing day. It's where everything starts, but I think the decision was made for the team's best interests, and I'm all on board with that. That's pretty much it.''

When asked if he had tried to lobby Marlins' management to make the start, Fernandez laughed and said, "Of course, I tried. Come on.''

Chen, 30, is 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA over four big-league seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. He signed a five-year, guaranteed $80 million contract with the Marlins as a free agent in January.

Chen joins Chien-Ming Wang of the 2008 New York Yankees as the second Taiwanese pitcher to start a Major League Baseball season opener. He is scheduled to oppose Detroit's Justin Verlander on April 5.