Jose Fernandez completed a big step on Sunday when he threw off a mound at the Miami Marlins spring training complex.
Fernandez' 2014 season was cut short by an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery. It takes more than a year to return from the procedure and there are many steps along the way. Setbacks are a fear and the Marlins are sure to be cautious with Fernandez.
The bullpen session can be seen below in a video that was captured by the <a href="http://" target="_blank">Sun-Sentinel.
The ace who is not expected to return until mid-June at the earliest had only thrown on flat ground prior to Sunday's session. Fernandez threw 15 pitches and that number should increase as time goes by and his arm strength improves. The 22-year old threw all fastballs which is normal for pitchers returning from the procedure.
As time goes by, Fernandez will begin working off-speed pitches into the routine. These types of pitches are more taxing to a pitcher returning from a long layoff. Fastballs allow Fernandez to work on his release point and strength while limiting the chances of a setback. It is also possible that eventually Fernandez could throw harder than he did prior to the surgery.
With Fernandez unavailable at the start of the year, the Opening Day assignment will likely go to Henderson Alvarez. He will be followed by Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart and Dan Haren in a yet to be determined order. The fifth spot is up for competition in Jupiter but Tom Koehler may have a leg up after a strong 2014 season.
The Marlins will play their first exhibition game of 2015 on Monday when the Florida International University Panthers visit Roger Dean Stadium.