Fernandez edges Puig as top NL rookie

Fernandez edges Puig as top NL rookie
November 11, 2013, 7:45 pm
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20-year-old Jose Fernandez finished 2013 with a 12-6 record, a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 172.2 innings pitched. (USATSI)

Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers were runners-up in the National League in 2013. Now, Puig is the runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

The 22-year-old Cuban sensation lost out to Miami Marlins starter and fellow-Cuban Jose Fernandez.

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Fernandez stood out in a very deep National League class this season, and the precocious Miami Marlins pitcher received 26 of 30 first-place votes from a Baseball Writers' Association of America panel in results announced Monday.

The only previous Rookie of the Year winners from Cuba came in the AL: Jose Canseco in 1986 and Tony Oliva in 1964.

"It means a lot just to be compared to those guys," Fernandez said. "I'm not sure I was even born when those guys were playing. But for sure I heard the names before. ... All the kids in Cuba play baseball."

Puig received the other four first-place votes and amassed 95 points to 142 for Fernandez, who made the All-Star team at age 20. He went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts for a last-place club that finished 62-100.

Fernandez was shut down in September after 172 2-3 innings to protect his precious arm. Still, his debut season was so superb that he's one of three finalists for the NL Cy Young Award - though Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is a heavy favorite.

Fernandez already has one big prize, however, and he hugged his mother and grandmother when he won.

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He came to the United States by boat as a Cuban refugee in 2008, apparently rescuing his mom along the way. Drafted 14th overall in 2011 out of high school in Tampa, Fla., he had never pitched above Class A before this season. Fernandez was ticketed for Double-A Jacksonville at the end of spring training when injuries left two holes in Miami's rotation.

Fernandez became an unexpected addition to the roster, making him the youngest pitcher on a major league team on opening day.

"I wasn't planning on being in the big leagues," he said.

The surprises haven't stopped - on and off the mound.

One day before winning the rookie award, a shocked Fernandez was reunited with his grandmother in Florida with help from his lawyer.

"Out of nowhere," the pitcher said. "I have no idea how it happened."

Now, she can visit for a few years and see him play in the majors.

"Pretty excited about that," Fernandez said.

After the Marlins dumped nearly all their high-priced stars last winter, Fernandez was a rare bright spot this season. The right-hander became the fourth Marlins player in 11 years to win Rookie of the Year, following Chris Coghlan (2009), Hanley Ramirez (2006) and Dontrelle Willis (2003).

"I'm very happy that he won," Puig told MLB.com in comments circulated by the Dodgers. "He worked really hard to achieve this and he pitched extremely well with Miami and he deserved this just as we deserved to be nominated. I am happy for him, that a Cuban won. I'm happy his grandmother arrived and I hope he enjoys his time with his grandmother and enjoys the prize he won."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.