Saturday night will be a glimpse into the future of pitching. San Diego Padres ace Andrew Cashner will take on Miami Marlins and 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez in Miami at 7:30 PM ET.
Those who have been watching the Padres over the last year and a half have seen Cashner make great strides since being traded for Anthony Rizzo in January 2012 and that was at work last Sunday night. On ESPN, the only game of the night, Cashner was absolutely fantastic. He ended up pitching 6 innings, only allowed 1 run, 2 walks, and struck out 4. He also made a great defensive play on a bunt by Dodger pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, nailing the lead runner at third base. Andrew is a little bit older, coming into this season at 27 years old, but he averages 95 MPH with his fastball, has a great curve and change-up down in the mid 80 MPH range, with an occasional curveball. He also is pretty good with the bat, hitting .245 with a homer and 3 stolen bases in 2013! His facial hair and haircut in general also draws some deserved media attention.
Jose Fernandez enters this season at 21 years old, which makes last year seem even more impressive when looking at the numbers he put up. His ERA was 2.19, he led the league in H/9 with just 5.8, and finished 3rd in the Cy Young Race too! He carries a fun personality into the game as well, as he stayed in the dugout cheering on his team in his great Opening Day win against the Colorado Rockies. In that game, he struck out 9 in 6 IP, only allowing one run on a home run to Carlos Gonzales. At the plate, he hit .220, with 1 double, 1 triple, and 1 infamous home run. It is refreshing to see such a young, talented pitcher carry so much enthusiasm into the game and every 5 days make the Miami Marlins contenders.
They both lead two franchises trying to turn a corner. The Marlins are the saddest team around that has won two World Series in the last 20 years and in a new stadium, but with Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton they do have some solid building blocks. The Padres certainly have Cashner, a few other hopefuls, and waiting for a position player to come through as their cornerstone for the future. Will it be Chase Headley- and if it is can they keep him? Will it Will Venable or Jedd Gyorko? Either way, a lot of the future of their respective franchises rests on these two hurlers shoulders, and so far they both seem up to the task.
One thing is certain however – Saturday night the teams 2013 and 2014 records won’t matter for this showdown. When pitchers like this go at it they elevate all of the players around them to a higher level. We will see two young pitchers with one full season of starting at the Major League level facing off, and it should be a treat to watch. Just one tip for Jose if he does hit a home run – don’t watch it.