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Wednesday, May 2
Fernandez taking long road back

Associated Press

MIAMI – Florida Marlins right-hander Alex Fernandez, sidelined since last season with a career-threatening shoulder injury, is throwing again and is optimistic about a comeback.

Fernandez, the Marlins' Opening Day starter in 1999 and 2000, has been making about 25 medium-range throws three times a week for the past six weeks. Some days the 30-year-old Cuban feels like he is making progress. Other times he feels like returning to the mound is a long shot.

"I definitely hope (to return), but I don't know," Fernandez said Wednesday, speaking with reporters for the first time since last season.

He plans to meet with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., in the next week or two to evaluate his strained rotator cuff.

Fernandez was first diagnosed with the injured throwing shoulder during the 1997 NL Championship Series and was unable to pitch in Florida's World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians.

After sitting out the 1998 season, Fernandez was chosen as the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 1999 after going 7-8 with a 3.38 ERA in 141 innings. He was on a limited pitch count all season.

He started eight games last season and was 4-4 with a 4.13 ERA before finishing the season on the disabled list and having shoulder surgery for the second time in less than three years.

Fernandez, who started this season on the 60-day DL, has ruled out having surgery again if rest and rehabilitation don't work, leaving retirement as possibly the only other option.

"It was getting to a point where you're playing with pain every day," he said. "It's been a long haul. People think it's only been a year, but it's been October 1997. It's a lot of wear and tear mentally.

"I still want to get back on the mound, and I'm trying every avenue possible."

Fernandez continues working out away from the team, saying it is difficult to be so close to the action without being part of it.

"It's very frustrating," he said. "It's nice to see the fellas; it keeps you motivated. But I wish I was out there getting ready for the game with them. Not being out there, that's the toughest part. No one needs to feel sorry for me. I'm just trying to get back on the hill. And when that happens, I'll be really happy."

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