Jose Fernandez picked up a nice little hobby in the offseason. Although, calling cycling 600 miles a week a hobby is just as ridiculous as Fernandez's talent.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Craig Davis (h/t The Big Lead) reports the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year hardly took time to relax this winter. The 21-year-old is doing what he can to maintain his leg strength, which includes riding his new fancy bike about 600 miles a week.
It may be time to place Fernandez a bit higher on your respective fantasy baseball draft rankings.
Davis spoke with an eager athlete who proved he can certainly dive into the fray and do very well when it comes to taking the mound for a struggling franchise.
To a similar end, he jumped right into this cycling venture, straddling an expensive bike and riding around with cyclists that have been doing the same for years.
Davis writes, "Riding in a peloton that typically contained at least 50 serious cycling enthusiasts and grew to as many as 200 on some weekend rides, he maintained a frenetic pace for nearly 600 miles a week."
This is the same kid who garnered a 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 187 strikeouts in his first year in the bigs. More remarkably, he managed to win 12 games and lose just six for a team that went on to a 62-100 record for 2013.
The Marlins weren't exactly helping their pitchers out, ranking 30th in runs, on-base percentage and slugging. Yet, Fernandez managed to go on to have a spectacular season, establishing fine numbers despite run support of just 3.71 runs per outing.
It all makes sense when you consider the work he is putting in heading into his sophomore campaign. Fernandez explained to Davis why he chose to hop on a bike to build legs he hopes can carry him longer than the 172 innings he pitched last season:
On the bike you can do intervals. You go hard and then slow down. It's kind of like an inning, is the way I see it. I'm going really hard for 10, 12 minutes and then I slow down for 5 or 6 minutes. Conditioning-wise, it's amazing. I'm glad that I did it. Let's see how it's going to work out this year. I'm not sure, but I feel really good.
That conditioning, by the way, is paying off in the form of a more established physique for a young athlete who was already as svelte and lithe as most come. Still, he is down from the 240 pounds he pitched at last year and is in remarkable condition.
Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez spoke with Davis, sounding optimistic about his young ace's physique heading into the 2014 season. "His legs are going to be strong, obviously. It kept him in good shape and he came to camp in good shape. Past that, I'm really not interested in his bike."
Hernandez may not be a bike fan, but he really likes Fernandez's condition, "He's slimmed out, he's grown into a man now. He looks great."
Now at a reported 215 pounds, Fernandez is proving preparations began long ago to make this upcoming year and even better one for both him and the Marlins contingent.
Being an ace means far more than getting outs and locking down wins. It means leading from the front, showing others that even the best have to put in months of work.
Fernandez is only 21, but he is already moving past the label of Rookie of the Year and into the far more important role as team leader.
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