A native Hawaiian who wore number 50 to honor his home state, Fernandez pitched two minor-league no-hitters in 1982 but was given up on by the Dodgers because of his weight problems. Obtained by the Mets with infielder Ross Jones for Bob Bailor and Carlos Diaz, he blossomed in 1985, striking out 180 batters in 170 innings while going 9-9 with a 2.80 ERA. But Fernandez battled inconsistency due to his widely fluctuating weight, which when high reduced his stamina. It also caused him knee problems (which put him on the DL in August 1987) and made him a poor fielder who was slow to cover first base.
Fernandez used a herky-jerky motion, seemingly throwing the ball entirely with his arm after finishing his stride. It was hard for batters to pick up the ball coming out of his uniform, and his rising fastball was deceptive and effective. He led the NL in strikeouts per inning in 1985, and on July 14, 1989 he struck out 16 Braves (but lost, 3-2), setting a franchise record for lefthanders. At home games, fans in the right field upper deck posted an “S” for each strikeout.
Fernandez’s 16-6 record in 1986 helped the Mets to a pennant, but he didn’t start in the World Series (after losing Game Four of the LCS 3-1 to Mike Scott) because manager Davey Johnson didn’t want to use the lefthander in Fenway. But he had a 1.35 ERA out of the bullpen, and his 2-1/3 hitless innings in Game Seven, including four strikeouts, kept the Mets in the game after they had gone down by three runs early. New York rallied to win the Series.
Through the 1980s, Fernandez did not pitch to his potential for an entire season. He was bombed in Game Five of the 1988 LCS by the Dodgers and took the loss. Remaining inconsistent and occasionally suffering weight-related knee injuries, he was not resigned by the Mets after the ’93 season and signed with the Orioles, his first season with them again marred by injuries. After a slow start in ’95 he was released.