Miami Marlins injured pitcher Jose Fernandez talks with a Tampa Bay Rays player during batting practice before an interleague baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday, June 3, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky
February 20, 2015

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) The reluctant veteran and eager ace both reported to Miami Marlins camp Friday, and come July they might be in the rotation together, disproving doubters.

Dan Haren weighed retirement after being traded but decided to join his new team. Jose Fernandez came to camp to continue his recovery from elbow surgery last May, and he's on schedule to return around midseason.

Their arrivals created a little extra buzz for a team that, for a change, finds itself in conversations about October in February.

''I love it,'' Fernandez said. ''I think we have a playoff team. I'm going to enjoy my teammates being in first place by the All-Star Game.''

That's when Fernandez hopes to be back in the rotation. The Marlins resume play after the All-Star break July 17, and Fernandez said his doctor has tentatively targeted that date for a return.

He said he is throwing every day from a distance of 150 feet, began to toss breaking balls this week and has had no setbacks in his rehabilitation. He expects to begin throwing off a mound in early March.

''So far there hasn't been any discomfort,'' he said. ''I'm feeling great.''

Fernandez was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2013. He has a 16-8 career record with a 2.25 ERA in 36 starts, and he's still only 22. But the lengthy rehabilitation has tested his patience and tempered his hubris.

''I want to pitch tomorrow. Are you kidding me? That's just who I am,'' he said. ''But you've got to be smart. It's not, `I'm 22. I can do whatever I want. My arm is made of steel. I throw 100 mph.' Those times already happened a little bit.

''You've got to take care of your arm, because it's not only about you. It's about your teammates. They're counting on me.''

The addition of Haren could help the Marlins stay competitive while Fernandez is sidelined. Haren has made at least 30 starts each of the past 10 seasons, the second-longest active streak in the majors behind Mark Buehrle's 14 years, according to STATS.

Retirement almost ended the streak, and in January, Marlins officials had privately given up on coaxing the 34-year-old Haren to camp. He wanted to pitch close to his family in Southern California, which the Marlins knew when they acquired him in a seven-player deal with the Dodgers in December.

''The trade surprised me,'' Haren said. ''My family had a tough time with it.''

Eventually his family endorsed the idea of him pitching this year, he said, which made the decision to return easier.

''I wanted to make sure I was going to be 100 percent committed,'' he said. ''I didn't want to give a halfhearted effort. Once I was committed in the offseason to putting in the work, I was ready to go for the year. ...

''I'm here, I'm happy to be here. I'm ready to get going.''

Manager Mike Redmond said he had a good conversation with Haren shortly before the first workout for pitchers and catchers Friday.

''We talked for a long time, and he's 100 percent in,'' Redmond said. ''He is focused on helping us win.''

Redmond's first Miami team lost 100 games two years ago, but the outlook now is much brighter following a busy offseason. The Marlins signed slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a record $325 million, 13-year contract. They turned over three-fourths of the infield by acquiring third baseman Martin Prado, second baseman Dee Gordon and first baseman Michael Morse. They also added right-hander Mat Latos, and signed Ichiro Suzuki as a fourth outfielder.

''There's a buzz and excitement around this ballclub,'' Redmond said. ''The players feel it.''

Redmond is still limping from an Achilles' tendon injury that required surgery, so he got his first glimpse at this year's team while seated in a golf cart. Even from that vantage point, seeing Fernandez and Haren on the field in uniform had to look good.

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