MIAMI — The Florida Marlins had wondered if something was physically wrong with starter Alex Fernandez after his poor performance in Game 2 of the National League championship series Wednesday.
On Thursday, the Marlins' worst fears were confirmed. An MRI exam revealed that the right-hander had suffered a career-threatening tear in the rotator cuff of his pitching shoulder. Fernandez will undergo surgery soon, sitting out the rest of postseason play and possibly the next two seasons as he faces extensive rehabilitation.
"This is a family matter, a very personal matter among teammates, and it's very hard to share the emotions with the public," Marlin Manager Jim Leyland said. "Our guys are very disappointed, heartbroken to an extent.
"But we are all grown men and you have to deal with these things in life. It is a severe blow to the
Fernandez family and that's the main thing. That's the thing we have to think about first."
Fernandez met with team physician John Uribe on Thursday morning after complaining of pain in his shoulder on the Marlins' flight home from Atlanta. Fernandez gave up six hits--two of them home runs--and five runs in 2 2/3 innings in the Braves' 7-1 victory. The best-of-seven series is tied, 1-1, with Game 3 here tonight.
It's common for pitchers to experience pain after throwing, but Leyland sensed a problem because Fernandez didn't pitch with his usual velocity. Uribe said his exam revealed that Fernandez had suffered a complete tear of his rotator cuff. Fernandez is unsure when the injury occurred.
"It's something I've dealt with and learned how to pitch through," Fernandez said. "At this point in time, you try to pitch through things."
A date has not been set for the surgery.
Fernandez, a Miami native who pitched at the University of Miami, signed a five-year, $35-million free-agent contract with the Marlins in the off-season.
A power pitcher, he was 17-12 with a 3.59 earned-run average during the regular season. Fernandez, 28, had not experienced arm trouble during his 6 1/2 seasons with the Chicago White Sox.
This season, though, pain in his shoulder became worse after the All-Star break. However, Fernandez said his shoulder felt "pretty good" while he warmed up in the bullpen before Game 2.
"It's been going off and on, but nothing major," Fernandez said of the pain. "Dr. Uribe can't believe how I was able to throw the ball [against Atlanta] and neither can I."
Fernandez pitched seven strong innings and earned the victory as the Marlins defeated the Giants, 6-2, to end their division series Friday at San Francisco.
Fernandez had been expected to start in Game 6 on Tuesday at Atlanta if the series reached that point. Leyland said rookie right-hander Livan Hernandez will take Fernandez's spot in the rotation.
Under baseball rules, the Marlins are not allowed to replace Fernandez's spot on the roster in this series. They would be permitted to add a player if they reach the World Series.
The Braves were also disappointed to hear about Fernandez's injury.
"You hate to see this happen to anyone, but Alex is also a friend of mine so I feel very badly about this," said Chipper Jones, Atlanta's third baseman. "You hate to see this happen so close to the World Series."
Fernandez said he realizes he faces a struggle.
"I feel real bad for the organization and the team," Fernandez said.
"I know I'm down for a while but I'm not out. I will be back."