The reigning National League Rookie of the Year arrives at Miami Marlins camp every day like a Tour de France racer.
Right-hander Jose Fernandez rides a Specialized S-Works Venge bicycle, the same one he used to rack up 500 miles per week in the offseason at home in Tampa, Fla.
"Conditioning-wise, amazing," Fernandez said about his bike, which can cost $9,000. "It was really good. Let's see how it's going to work out."
Fernandez also continued his unorthodox winter routine of chopping trees with an ax, part of his determination to prove that 2013 was no fluke.
After unexpectedly making the team in April following a rash of injuries to the rotation, Fernandez went 12-6, and he was shut down after 172 2/3 innings. He finished second in the NL with a 2.19 ERA, first in hits per nine innings (5.8) and third in NL Cy Young Award voting.
The Marlins know it will be a tall order for Fernandez to repeat that season as he leads a young and inexperienced rotation.
"I'm sure there's expectations that he puts on himself," manager Mike Redmond said. "I know that he thinks he's going to go out and be even better. And you know, he might be."
Fernandez looked sharp in early bullpen sessions during the first week of camp.
"Hopefully this year is going to be a lot better than last year," Fernandez said. "I've got some goals. When the time is right, I will tell you guys. They are written down, but I'm doing pretty good right now."
Fernandez, who defected from Cuba in 2008, said he is still learning about life and about baseball. He said he understands what the phrase "sophomore slump" means.
"A lot of guys have said something about it. Anything can happen," he said. "But man, I'm feeling really good."
--RHP Steve Cishek, Miami's closer, cut short a bullpen session Feb. 18 because of a sore neck. He said he didn't think it was serious, and he was embarrassed about how he tweaked his neck.
"I just reached to shut off the alarm (clock) and felt a nice little couple of pops in my neck and shooting pain," Cishek said. "It's a freak thing. Crazy. At least it happened now and not later."
--2B Rafael Furcal is putting in extra work one-on-one with infield coach Perry Hill. Furcal, a shortstop over the majority of his 13 major league seasons, last started a game at second base in 2002, when he was with the Braves.
--RF Giancarlo Stanton said he is fine waiting until after the season before discussing a possible long-term contract with the Marlins. He is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.
Stanton, who made $537,000 last year, is happy with the $6.5 million he will get in 2014. Before he seriously considers a long-term offer, he said, he wants to see signs that the front office won't dismantle the roster again
Stanton batted .290 with 37 home runs and 86 RBIs in 123 games in 2012 but fell to .249 with 24 homers and 62 RBIs in 116 games last year.
--Manager Mike Redmond said he expects 2B Rafael Furcal to bat first with LF Christian Yelich hitting second. RF Giancarlo Stanton likely will hit third, but that is not etched in stone. The middle of the lineup will feature some combination of Stanton, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 1B Garrett Jones and 3B Casey McGehee.
--Marlins players claimed an early victory when owner Jeffrey Loria agreed to relax a long-time team policy against facial hair. Beards are OK as long as players keep them trimmed.
"This has been a rule for a long time, I understand," C Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He's allowed us to do it. We need to take advantage of it and not go too far."
Marlins manager Mike Redmond joked that many of his young players might not have to worry about facial hair because "we've only got a handful of guys who can grow a beard."
--RHP Henderson Alvarez is thrilled that he will be represented at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The museum now has the spikes Alvarez wore when he tossed a no-hitter on the last day of the 2013 season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not a loser. That's not what I'm accustomed to. That's not what I like to do, so obviously it hasn't been ideal so far. And I don't want a career like that, so we've got to push it forward and start turning it around." -- RF Giancarlo Stanton, before the Marlins' first full squad workout on Feb. 20.