This season might seem like a dream to Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez, and Monday will likely provide his next "pinch me" moment.
Fernandez, who defected from Cuba in 2008, attended high school in Tampa, Fla., and on Monday he'll pitch in front of his friends and family at Tropicana Field in nearby St. Petersburg.
"I would be lying if I said it didn't mean more," Fernandez said. "It's good to be pitching in Tampa."
Fernandez, who pitched in Class A last year, on April 7 became the youngest pitcher to start a game for the Marlins, at 20.
Fernandez has compiled a 3.31 ERA in nine starts and has struck out 46 in 49 innings. Over his last five starts, he's 2-0 with a 2.48 ERA, with a 27-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opponents are batting .208 against him over that stretch.
But Monday will be a homecoming of sorts. He's already pitched at the Trop, in a tournament in his junior year of high school. He also attended a few Rays games.
"I saw maybe five [or] six games. We'd be way back in left field, way up high," he said. "I'm going to be facing the guys that I've watched on TV for the last five years. It's incredible."
But despite his youth and the potential nerves of returning home to pitch, Fernandez is taking a mature approach to the start.
"This is the big leagues," he said. "You've got to be professional. I might be a little pumped up when I'm warming up, because it's normal, but once I throw the first pitch, I'm going to do my job and do what I do."
Starting opposite Fernandez will be another rookie, Jake Odorizzi, filling in for the injured David Price.
It's just his second start of the season, and he admitted to being a little nervous in the early going of his first outing.
"It's kind of another game now," Odorizzi said. "Once you get the first one out of the way, it's more baseball as usual. So I'm going to do the same thing I did last game, and hopefully be locked in from the get-go and settled in from the first inning on and carry that throughout the whole game."
Odorizzi pitched well in his Rays debut, against the Blue Jays, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk, but he had six strikeouts and took a no-decision.
He started two games last year for the Royals before moving to the Rays as part of the James Shields trade, so he's still a little unfamiliar with most Marlins hitters.
"I faced a few of them last year in New Orleans, maybe a handful," he said. "But other than that, no. Last year was the first year I had faced any Marlins affiliates. So I'm just familiar with the people from last year if they're in the lineup tomorrow."
Marlins: Still struggling at the dish
Miami enters Monday's contest with the lowest batting average in the Majors, at .221. In addition, the Marlins have the lowest on-base-plus-slugging percentage, by a wide margin. Their rate of .598 is well short of the Nationals' .659 clip, which currently rates as second worst.
In comparison, the Major League average is .721, 123 points higher than Miami.
Rays: Swapping spots
Alex Cobb had been on track to make Monday's start, but manager Joe Maddon took advantage of an off-day on Thursday to move up Cobb to face the Yankees in the series finale on Sunday instead of Odorizzi.
The move paid off. Cobb pitched 8 1/3 stellar innings before giving way to the bullpen. He allowed two earned runs, struck out eight and didn't walk a batter.
• Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna extended his 11-game hitting streak with two hits on Sunday and raised his batting average to .304.
Derek Wetmore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.