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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After a rough start to the 2015 season, the Miami Marlins are starting to look like the playoff contender that many thought they would be.

The Marlins defeated the New York Mets on Wednesday night, their seventh win in eight games and third consecutive series victory.

As if the on-field resurgence isn’t good enough news for Miami, the team received another reason to be optimistic about their playoff chances on Thursday.

Jose Fernandez, the ace of the Marlins pitching staff, threw to live batters for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May.

The session took place at the team’s Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Florida.

Afterwards, Fernandez was all smiles.

“It felt great,” he said. “Finally facing hitters, I’m excited. It felt really fantastic. It felt where I belong.”

Fernandez has been throwing bullpen sessions over the past month or so, already reaching up to 50 pitches.

While all these signs are extremely encouraging, the 22-year-old isn’t rushing anything and knows that he’ll be back pitching for the Marlins soon enough.

“It’s a big step in the process, facing hitters, and hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing soon,” he said.

Fernandez is expected back in the Marlins rotation sometime around the MLB All-Star Game, which takes place in mid-July, but that could change depending on how these sessions continue to go.

Follow David on Twitter (@DavidDwork)