Miami Marlins players wearing No. 16 jerseys in honor of Jose Fernandez led a wrenching pre-game tribute, a day after the star pitcher was killed in a boating accident.

Several of the Cuban-born player's teammates choked back tears as they gathered on the pitcher's mound at Marlins Park ahead of the start of the game against the New York Mets.

Many players touched a large "16" which had been painted on the mound in tribute to the 24-year-old pitching ace, before hanging their heads in a moment of silence.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said earlier that the club would permanently retire Fernandez's "16" jersey number.

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"Nobody's going to wear it. I can tell you that now, nobody will wear that number again," Loria said.

Marlins coach Don Mattingly said the shattered organisation were "not trying to do anything other than just get through the day."

"We're just handling it the best we can, whatever way that is, for each guy," said Mattingly.

"We have a love for Jose, the way he played, his passion for the game, and his energy for it. And I think our guys want to honor that, and what we've learned from him and that joy that he played with."

Marlins president David Samson said Fernandez, a Cuban refugee who became a US citizen and achieved his dream of starring for a team in Miami, had been a role model beyond baseball.

"This was a loss not just in the baseball world, but a loss in the community," Samson said.

"Jose Fernandez represented the possibility of freedom and the possibility of what America can mean to the Cuban people."

Fans created a makeshift memorial for the pitcher at the Florida baseball stadium, leaving flowers and handwritten notes in his honor.

The tributes come a day after Fernandez's body was found, along with two companions, in an overturned boat off Miami Beach.

The Marlins cancelled their game against the Atlanta Braves on Monday (EST) as his teammates absorbed the shock of his loss.