This week’s spotlight is on two guys who will be making their 2015 season debuts on Thursday. Jose Fernandez and Matt Moore will both be returning from Tommy John surgery and extensive time away from pitching to toe the rubber in their first starts of the season. For the entire state of Florida, it will be two extra reasons to celebrate this holiday weekend. Both Fernandez and Moore are the aces of their respective staffs when healthy, and with surgery now fully in the rear view mirror, they can go back to doing what they do best out on the mound.
Fernandez and Moore will both be making their first start at their home ballparks. The Miami Marlins and Fernandez will welcome in the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants, while the Tampa Bay Rays will play host to the Cleveland Indians.
In the Marlins versus Giants match-up, it will not only feel like Opening Day for Fernandez, but for his counterpart Matt Cain as well who will also be coming off of the disabled list for his first start of the season. The 2012 16-game winner Cain has not made a big league start in nearly a year, since July 9th of last season.
The start for Fernandez will still be bittersweet for the Marlins as it will come a week after the news that Giancarlo Stanton will be out several weeks with a hand injury. In what was supposed to be a breakout season for the Marlins, the addition of Fernandez was to be like acquiring a player in a mid-season trade. However, in what has been a disappointing year to date, Miami will have to wait a bit longer before seeing both of their young stars on the field at the same time.
This will be Fernandez’s first start since May 9th of last season. With all of the young talent that has broken through on the offensive side, Fernandez is one of the game’s premier young pitching stars. The 2013 Rookie of the Year has electric stuff and was supposed to contend for the Cy Young award last season before going down for the year. With the Marlins under currently .500, the debate will be just how much work the soon-to-be 23-year-old will get as he works his way back to the big-league level. Will he be on a pitch count or an innings limit every time out ? In contention or not, how far will the Marlins be willing to risk the long-term services of their ace?
To what may be a surprise to some, the Tampa Bay Rays will be welcoming back their ace, Moore, as division leaders. Thursday will be Matt Moore’s first start since April 7th of last season. Of the three guys returning from the disabled list, the left-hander has been sidelined the longest. With the Rays once again doing their thing leading the American League in team ERA, how much will be asked of Moore in his return? Unlike the Marlins, Tampa Bay will be getting that key acquisition while still in a pennant race. The Rays also have the ability to lean on Chris Archer while Moore works his way back into the fold.
Moore was a 17-game winner in 2013, and like Fernandez, he also was projected to perhaps make that leap to a Cy Young-level last season before having his season cut short. The just-turned-26-year-old has the ability to suddenly become that number 1A starter alongside Archer. Because of the blossoming results of Archer and the return of Moore, Tampa Bay once again has the potential to be in the race down the stretch thanks to their starting rotation’s magic.
In the sunshine state, the fireworks will start early as both the Rays and Marlins will be welcoming back key arms to the rotation. The spotlight will be on Jose Fernandez and Matt Moore as they will become the latest pitchers on the growing list of guys to make their way back from the dreaded Tommy John epidemic.