9/13/2013 11:32 P.M. ET
Fernandez meets former phenom Gooden
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Work hard. Stay focused. Don't associate with just anyone.
Those are some helpful tips from Doc to Jose Fernandez.
Dwight "Doc" Gooden, the former Mets great, is among the growing list of people inside the game who enjoy watching Fernandez, the Marlins' rookie sensation.
Gooden was at Citi Field on Friday promoting his book, "Doc." The pitching icon took a few minutes between signing books to talk about Miami's rookie All-Star.
"The main thing with a guy like that is, on the field, continue to work hard and remember what got you there," Gooden said. "Stick around the veterans, and always be a student of the game. There is always something you can improve on. I know he had a great year, but you always constantly challenge yourself to improve. Keep working hard."
Like Fernandez, Gooden broke into the league at a young age. In 1984, Gooden was a 19-year-old who went on to win National League Rookie of the Year.
Fernandez opened the season at age 20, and he turned 21 on July 31. The Marlins right-hander is a frontrunner to be the National League's top rookie.
The two share some commonalities.
Gooden was born and raised in Tampa, and Fernandez settled in Tampa five years ago, after he defected from Cuba.
Like Gooden, Fernandez wears No. 16.
Gooden still has family in Tampa, and his nephew actually played high school baseball against Fernandez, who attended Alonso High School.
"As far as off the field, just understand that a lot of people may approach you," Gooden cautions Fernandez. "A lot of them might not have your best interest."
Gooden likes the energy the Miami rookie brings.
"The main thing that sticks out is his mound presence," Gooden said. "He pitches like he's been there a long time. He's not afraid of the hitters. He likes pitching inside. He has a lot of confidence. I don't think he's cocky. Just a lot of confidence. That's what really sticks out."
Eovaldi, Mathis getting closer to return
NEW YORK -- Nathan Eovaldi's back is getting better, and so is Jeff Mathis' right thumb.
Still, there isn't a definitive return date for either player.
Eovaldi was scratched from his start on Thursday, at home against the Braves, due to a tight back. Best case scenario is the hard-throwing right-hander will pitch during the series at Philadelphia next week.
Right now, it doesn't appear that would be on Monday. Sam Dyson is likely to get the nod that day.
"He is feeling better," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of Eovaldi. "That's good. Hopefully, we get him back out playing catch soon. We'll see. I don't have a date as far as when he will be able to pitch."
Dyson threw three innings of relief against the Braves on Thursday, and he is ready to go on Monday. But a final decision hasn't yet been made.
Mathis, meanwhile, is also improving. The veteran catcher bruised his thumb while blocking a pitch on Monday.
A second X-ray also came back negative, and the swelling is subsiding. Mathis may start swinging the bat in the cages on Saturday. The earliest he could be ready is Sunday, but that may be optimistic.
"Each day he seems to be getting better and better," Redmond said.
Pitching decisions still to be made by Marlins
NEW YORK -- Since the All-Star break, the Marlins have gone primarily with the same rotation. Jose Fernandez emerged as the ace, and the rest of the starters were, mainly, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Tom Koehler.
As the Marlins play out the rest of the season, and look ahead to 2014, the organization believes it has a nice collection of young starters to build around. While these five have regularly thrown, they all won't necessarily be in the rotation at the beginning of next year.
Miami also has some Minor League prospects who are close to being big league ready. Andrew Heaney, for instance, was the team's first-round Draft pick in 2012. The left-hander, who is the club's second-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, finished the season at Double-A Jacksonville, and he will contend for a rotation spot next year.
So will Brian Flynn, the ninth-ranked prospect who is currently in the rotation, Justin Nicolino (ranked third) and Anthony DeSclafani (14th).
Some of the pitchers who have mainly started this season at the big league level may eventually wind up in the bullpen. Believing you can never have too much pitching, the Marlins consider themselves in a favorable position.
"The good thing is we've been able to see Eovaldi, Alvarez and Turner," manager Mike Redmond said. "Tom Koehler has gotten a lot of opportunities to start.
"We've seen these guys a lot. The key is what are these guys going to turn into next year? Do they carry it over? Do they pitch even better? That's the thing with young pitching, you're always going to have that uncertainty.
"With young guys, it takes time to see what you've got and evaluate. I think this year, once we got them healthy, we were able to get them consistent innings. I think we saw what guys are capable of."
Koehler, for instance, gives the team the luxury of being able to start and relieve. Even Alvarez, a mainstay in the rotation, could wind up pitching out of the bullpen someday.
It all depends on how they perform, and how the other young arms do next spring.
"What's Tom Koehler going to be like next year? What's Alvarez going to be like next year? That's the unknown," Redmond said. "The good thing is we've got to see these guys and we can figure out who we like. We like a lot of these guys."
Alvarez and Turner are scheduled to pitch in Saturday's doubleheader against the Mets, with Koehler going on Sunday.