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Fernandez hopes to avoid sophomore slump in opener with Rockies

(SportsNetwork.com) - Reigning National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez will become the youngest Opening Day starter in Miami Marlins history on Monday when they lift the lid on the 2014 season in the first of a four-game series versus the Colorado Rockies at Marlins Park.

At 21 years, 243 days old, Fernandez is younger than Josh Beckett, who was 22 years, 320 days old when he got the Opening Day nod for the club in 2003. He's also the youngest Opening Day starter in the big leagues since Felix Hernandez of the Mariners took the ball at 20 years, 359 days old in 2007.

Fernandez turned in perhaps the best rookie season in team history a year ago, going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA. He also struck out a team rookie record 187 batters, and he posted a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 0.98.

From June 1 to the end of the season, Fernandez's 1.50 ERA was the best in the NL. The Marlins were also 18-10 in his 28 starts and Fernandez was 9-0 at home with a 1.19 ERA, while holding opponents to .164 clip at Marlins Park.

Aside from Fernandez, though, not much went right for the Marlins, as they went just 62-100 under first year manager Mike Redmond. The Marlins finished with the worst record in the National League while posting their third straight last-place finish in the NL East.

Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton shook off an injury-plagued season to hit 24 homers in 116 games. Still, it was an offense that finished last in the league in runs scored, homers, batting average and slugging percentage among a number of other categories.

In response, the Marlins were very active in free agency, though it didn't feature many eye-catching names. The biggest was catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, signed for three years.

While all the moves the Marlins made last summer involved getting prospects for the long rebuild, this past offseason saw management sprinkle in a number of free agents over 30 in attempt to move forward. Those brought in include infielder Rafael Furcal, first baseman Garrett Jones and third baseman Casey McGehee.

Colorado, meanwhile, also struggled last season in Walt Weiss' first year at the helm. The Rockies actually increased their win total by 10 games. Unfortunately, that jump only brought them to 74 victories.

If you look at Colorado's lineup there is plenty to like. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are two of the more dynamic players in the game. The only problem is that they can't seem to stay on the field.

Also, for the first time since 1998 the Rockies will have a new first baseman on Opening Day following Todd Helton's retirement after last season. That job now falls on former American League MVP Justin Morneau, who will try to resurrect a once impressive career.

Oft-injured lefty Brett Anderson was also brought in to give depth to a rotation that last season was battered by injuries. Anderson seems to be a curious case to fill that bill given his own history.

Another pitcher the Rockies will need to stay healthy is lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who was 16-6 with a 3.47 ERA last season, and the club went 21-9 in his games.

"He's worked really hard, and he deserves it," Weiss said earlier this spring. "He's a great pitcher for us, a great pitcher at our park."

De La Rosa, though, has only started more than 30 games and pitched more than 130 innings twice in his 10-year career

The Marlins edged out the Rockies, 4-3, in the season series a year ago.

03/31 07:32:54 ET