TORONTO — The Yankees’ clubhouse was presumably no different from others across the sport yesterday morning.
Church-quiet except for the sound of the TV describing the still fresh, hard-to-digest news that Marlins ace Jose Fernandez had been killed at the age of 24.
Fernandez’s death struck two Yankees particularly hard: reserve infielder Donovan Solano, a Marlin from 2012-2015, and third-base coach Joe Espada, the Marlins’ third-base coach from 2010-2013.
“We were very close,” Solano said quietly. “When I played over there I was very close. [Marcell] Ozuna, [Adeiny] Hechavarria, Jose and me, all the Latins over there were very close. I know his family, his mom, his grandma, his uncle. I’m so sad. I feel sorry for the family. I’m still in shock.”
Solano, 28, added: “He was a nice person. He’d help you out if you needed help. He’d push you to give 100 percent every time. He was a leader in the clubhouse.”
Espada’s eyes, like Solano’s, were red as he talked about the pitcher he described as “one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
“I know Jose really well, watched him develop into the great pitcher that he is,” Espada said. “We loved him. I spent a lot of time with him in the cages working on his bunting, just stuff. What he meant for the team, for the community, it’s tough. It’s a tough day for baseball and that community . . . If he took the mound, I remember when I was there, every time he took the mound, it was like ‘we’re going to win today.’ He had that attitude.”
Joe Girardi, who managed the Marlins in 2006 but did not know Fernandez as he was a first-round pick in 2011, said, “I watched from afar and the amazing talent he was and how gifted he was and how he competed.”
“I think we’re all shocked,” Girardi said. “You think about all the people’s lives that this affects and how difficult it must be down there right now. I don’t know how you ever get over it.”
Brian McCann had a well-publicized dust-up with Fernandez as a member of the Braves in 2013, when the pitcher hit his first big-league homer. The two quickly reconciled and became friendly, and McCann was close to tears yesterday morning.
“Beyond devastating,” McCann said quietly. “Woke up this morning and saw the news . . . it’s sick.”