Marlins ace Jose Fernandez already on the long road back to the mound



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MIAMI — Jose Fernandez released the ball with such velocity that the sound of it landing in the catcher's mitt echoed crisply throughout Marlins Park.

And to think, he's nowhere close to throwing hard yet.

Fernandez's recovery from elbow-reconstruction surgery is turning another corner, with the Miami Marlins' ace now starting a throwing program. He made 25 tosses on Friday, the second throwing session of a rehab project that is still a long way from being finished.

"Feels like I never had surgery and I never stopped throwing," Fernandez said. "It's weird because you think you will feel it. You guys saw there, the ball's just coming out of my hand incredible."

He needed about five minutes to complete the 25 throws to Marlins athletic trainer Sean Cunningham, who winced occasionally as Fernandez's throws from about 30 to 45 feet neared his glove.

"The progress in 4-1/2 months is really incredible," Fernandez said.

Fernandez is 16-8 in parts of two seasons with the Marlins with a 2.25 ERA, and won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2013. He had surgery in May and is expected back by the midpoint of the 2015 season.

"Maybe later, maybe before," Fernandez said. "Who knows?"

His mother was among the group of onlookers, mostly media members who awaited Fernandez to talk for a few minutes afterward in English and Spanish.

The media session was about three times as long as the actual throwing, which began with Fernandez — clad in a cap, T-shirt, shorts, patterned socks and cleats — simulating his pitching motion while holding a towel in an effort to get loose.

A few repetitions of that, he rubbed his right hand on the dirt in foul territory, Cunningham moved into his spot in left field, and Fernandez went to work.

"I think I'm a way different pitcher now," Fernandez said. "I see pitching a lot different. I'm learning so much. . You become a lot smarter pitcher, I think, when you go through this."

He plans to throw three times a week off flat ground for now and says he will not do anything beyond what his doctors tell him is advisable.

Fernandez insists that being patient won't be difficult, even though he says the way the ball is coming out of his hand "has never felt this good, ever."

"It feels like I was ready to pitch," Fernandez said. "That's how it feels now. But obviously, it's a process. It's a slow process. And I'm really happy it is a slow process, because I want to be here for a long time."

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