(Busch Stadium) Like those who came before him, walking into the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse for the first time was a special moment for Junior Fernandez.
“I’m excited, it’s amazing to walk in here,” said Fernandez on Friday. “I worked really hard for it and now I’m here. I want to take advantage of it.”
The 22-year old reliever had his contract purchased by St. Louis on August 6th and is in line to make his ML debut, possibly as soon as today. He has saved 11 games combined between Palm Beach (A+), Springfield (AA), and Memphis (AAA) this season.
“I mix my pitches–changeup, slider, just try to get ahead every time and then blow away guys with my fastball,” shared Fernandez, who struck out 23 batters in 20.2 innings pitched at Memphis.
After starting his first few seasons in the organization, Fernandez moved to the bullpen in 2018.
“When I got moved to the bullpen, it was a little bit hard for me and had to get used to it,” Fernandez said. “Now I feel good pitching out of the bullpen, especially closing. I really enjoy it.”
With Carlos Martinez at closer for the Cardinals, Mike Shildt has indicated it’s more likely that Fernandez will be used in a lesser leverage situation, at least to start with.
“I never really talked to them about the role I want, I just go out there and pitch,” Fernandez said. “Whatever they want me to do, I just do it–long reliever, back end relief. Whatever they want, I just do it.”
But if he were called up on to close out a game, Fernandez wouldn’t hesitate.
“I enjoy it. I really enjoy it,” he smiled. “It’s the same game, just a lot of fans…Got to slow down the game, breathe, that will help. But it’s the same game.”