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Julian Fernández is primed to make giant steps

Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, September 7, 2021

On Sunday, just hours before Julian Fernández made his MLB debut, his fellow Dominican countryman Carlos Estévez served as his interpreter to the media.

Estévez was all laughs and all smiles, having a blast in front of the home dugout alongside the 25-year-old fireballer. Fernández is in good hands.

The two of them grew up about 20 miles apart. Estévez, 28, remembers the moment Fernández signed with the Rockies and reflected on the progression to where they are today. “I saw him skinny and small. And then I [look] back and he’s throwing 97.”

Their story has come full circle, as Estévez finds himself covering the Rockies closer duties and Fernández finds himself throwing some of MLB’s fastest pitches.

The Inspiration

Due to his UCL and a global pandemic, Fernández didn’t throw for three full seasons.

“He thought he was done,” Estévez translated, but it was Fernández’s late grandfather Román that kept him motivated. “His grandpa was always telling him, ‘Hey, you promise me you’re going to come back stronger.’”

Fernández said he was thinking of his grandfather as he made his way out of the bullpen for his debut on Sunday, the name Román stitched into the thumb of his purple glove. Julian has fulfilled his promise, staying committed through one of the toughest recovery stories in the history of Tommy John surgery.

Fernández holds true to what his grandfather told him before his passing in August. “God’s timing is perfect.”

Development and Recovery

Most of Fernández’s time spent with San Francisco and Miami was as an elbow rehab patient. He’s managed to stay true to his own development, despite spending time across three different organizations. “He didn’t have to do anything extra, like weighted balls or anything like that,” Estévez said (via. Fernández’s translation).

He’s definitely put the work in, as the radar gun alone will show. Estévez said, “I think in Low-A Asheville, that’s the first year I threw 100. We had two guys ahead of me that were throwing 100 too, and we were a close group. We were working out together all the time. [Julian] was always like ‘Oh, I’m gonna throw harder than any of you. When I’m 18, I’m going to be throwing 100.’”

Fernández said he hit 102 in rookie-level Grand Junction when he was 18.

The Pitch Mix

Fernández threw 80% heaters in his debut on Sunday. His command was shaky, but let’s face it: you can get away with a lot when you’re pumping triple digits. See for yourself:

Fernández showed a four-pitch mix in his debut and displayed a sharp contrast in spin between his fastball and changeup. He didn’t really establish a pattern for where his changeup was in the zone, but he only threw four of them.

Julian Fernández - MLB Debut (Sept. 5, 2021)

Pitch # % MPH - Max MPH - Avg Spin (RPM) - Average
Pitch # % MPH - Max MPH - Avg Spin (RPM) - Average
4-Seam Fastball 20 80 102.4 100.3 2457
Changeup 4 16 90.6 90.2 1745
Sinker 1 4 92.4 92.4 1655
Courtesy of Baseball Savant

Giant Steps

This week completes another circle for Fernández too, as his former employer visits Coors Field.

Having signed at the age of 17, Fernández was eligible for the Rule 5 draft after his age-21 season. He had yet to pitch above A-ball at that point and the Rockies did not protect him with a 40-man roster spot. He was later selected by the Giants as a Rule 5 pick.

As he geared up for the 2018 season with the Giants, his fastball continued to climb and his future looked bright in San Francisco—until a torn UCL derailed his status and forced him on the shelf.

Fernández underwent Tommy John surgery just before the start of the 2018 season, and was no longer a member of the Giants at the end of the year. Through waivers and Rule 5 provisions, he was signed by the Marlins and returned to the Rockies in just over a two-year span.

He’s got a chance to square off the Giants this week. “It would be crazy, but I would like it,” Fernández said.

★ ★ ★

Gausman, in hometown, pitches and hits Giants past Rockies; two HRs for Thairo Estrada | San Francisco Chronicle

Kevin Gausman, alumnus of Grandview High School (Aurora, Colo.), squared off against Kyle Freeland on Monday afternoon, an alum of Thomas Jefferson High School (Denver). It was Gausman’s first time pitching in front of big league fans at Coors Field.

Larry Walker, Rockies’ First Hall of Famer, Filled With Nerves Ahead Of Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony | CBS4 (Denver)

“With his induction ceremony just days away, Walker’s nerves are building. For a man who was fearless at the plate, stepping up to the mic to deliver his speech feels more daunting than any fastball or slider that’s ever come his way.”

After COVID-19 postponed the 2020 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Larry Walker was forced to wait another year to finally have his plaque unveiled in Cooperstown. (10 years was long enough already.) He will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame this week, and he’s had plenty of time to anticipate walking up to the podium to deliver that speech.

On the farm

Oklahoma City cashed in a total of nine runs in the fourth and fifth inning. Six of them came off Albuquerque starter José Mujica, while the other three were unearned.

Recent call-up Reagan Todd threw 1 13 innings, striking out three but walking two, while recent call-down Antonio Santos worked a scoreless eighth.

The Isotopes managed 11 hits on the afternoon and had multi-hit showings from Yonathan Daza, Colton Welker, Alan Trejo and Brian Serven. Elehuris Montero hit second in the lineup and recorded his first home run in Triple-A.

★ ★ ★

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