Yankees will be thinking of Jose Fernandez on Sunday

Kurkjian: 'Hard to find a more talented pitcher than Jose' (1:56)

Tim Kurkjian shares his insight into why Jose Fernandez was such an effective pitcher at home, adding that "he wasn't animated on the road because of the respect for the other team and other fans." (1:56)

TORONTO -- The New York Yankees were already facing a tough day on Sunday, needing a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays to keep their faint hopes of postseason play alive.

But the day got a lot worse when they heard the horrible news about Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. Their pregame clubhouse was hushed as players huddled in front of televisions and shuddered looking at pictures of the wreckage on social media. Aside from the shock waves it sent through the relatively small fraternity that is Major League Baseball, two members of the team -- backup infielder Donovan Solano and third-base coach Joe Espada -- had personal ties to the 24-year-old who died in a boating accident in Miami early Sunday morning.

Solano, who was a Marlins teammate of Fernandez for three seasons, was near tears in the clubhouse and needed a few moments to compose himself before speaking with reporters. “We were very close over there," Solano said. "I know his family, his mom, his grandma, his uncle. I’m so sad. I’m just so sorry for the family. I’m still in shock from the news.”

Espada, who was the Marlins' third-base coach when the team signed Fernandez, a Cuban émigré, in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft, recalled Fernandez's first trip to Marlins Park. "He was kind of overwhelmed by the place," Espada said. "But I remember him saying to me, 'It won't be long before I'll be back here.' They all say that, but with him you felt like he meant it. No lack of confidence in Jose."

Espada said he became close with Fernandez while helping him with his bunting, and when he spoke of him, continued to speak of Fernandez in the present tense, as if the accident had never occurred. "He's such a great kid," Espada said. "The future is so bright for him. Every time he takes the mound, he's like 'We're going to win today.' He has that attitude."

Brian McCann, who was involved in a home plate conversation with Fernandez that preceded a bench-clearing incident between the Marlins and the Atlanta Braves after Fernandez hit a home run in 2013, could barely speak about him Sunday morning. "I woke up this morning and saw the news. I'm just sick."

After the 2013 incident, in which some of the Braves thought Fernandez hot-dogged it a little too much rounding the bases, Fernandez apologized and said McCann had spoken to him "like a dad teaching a kid."

"You liked to compete against him because you know he’s going to bring his best," McCann said. "He was one of the best pitchers in the game in a short amount of time. He was incredible."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was also visibly affected, said he had spoken to his players, particularly Solano and Espada, to make sure they were able to do their jobs Sunday. Girardi said he was considering using Solano in his starting lineup but changed his mind when he heard the news.

"I didn't know Jose and my heart's broken," Girardi said. "They had a relationship with him. I can't imagine how they feel. They say they're OK, but you know they're not. It's just really sad, and I don't know how you get over it."

The Yankees also released a team statement on Fernandez's death: "On behalf of Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, we offer our deepest condolences to Jose Fernandez’s family and loved ones, and to the entire Miami Marlins organization he so joyfully and proudly represented."