Jose Fernandez cleared for rehab assignment in comeback from Tommy John surgery

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Marlins ace Jose Fernandez has been cleared to take a huge step in his comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery, beginning a minor-league rehab assignment Saturday at Single-A.

Fernandez has been pitching in extended spring training, with no setbacks and positive reports on his progress that includes mid-90s fastball velocity. For now the targeted return date to the Marlins is July 1, which would be about 13 months after the elbow surgery.

Fernandez was brilliant before the injury, starting 36 games with a 2.25 ERA and 257 strikeouts in 224 innings through age 21 to immediately emerge as one of the truly elite pitchers in baseball.