Urena getting early chance to shine
NEW YORK — Plans tend to change once the regular season starts.
Jose Urena’s path to the big leagues is another reminder. In Spring Training, the Marlins had a pretty good idea how their rotation would shape up. They had seven starters on their 40-man roster with prior big league experience. They also wanted to give their top pitching prospects more Minor League seasoning.
That’s why Urena was a relatively early cut in camp. The move was not surprising, because the organization wanted the 23-year-old to get his innings in with Triple-A New Orleans.
When the Pacific Coast League started, Urena made one start for the Zephyrs, and he impressed, giving up one run on six hits with five strikeouts in six innings. He also picked up a win.
The intention was to keep Urena in New Orleans as long as possible, recognizing he was close to being big league ready.
Ready or not, the slender 6-foot-3, 175-pounder is getting his first MLB break.
Henderson Alvarez’s shoulder injury, coupled with David Phelps being placed on the MLB paternity list on Monday, created an opening for Urena, who made his big league debut, tossing a scoreless inning of relief on Tuesday at Atlanta.
Even after his one inning, the organization was considering optioning Urena back to New Orleans once Phelps rejoins the team, which is today at New York.
But Miami redirected. Urena is staying, while Carter Capps was optioned to New Orleans after Wednesday’s 6-2 win.
Phelps, who made the Opening Day roster as a long reliever, is filling in Alvarez’s rotation role. Urena, at least for now, will slide into the long relief spot.
Phelps will start on Friday at the Mets. If he makes an early exit, Urena is a candidate to log multiple innings.
Urena and lefty Brad Hand are the two long relief options.
Still, it’s hard to believe the Marlins envision Urena in that role for an extended period. It appears if Phelps has some hiccups as a starter, Urena would move into the rotation. Or, if Phelps runs with the starting spot, a role he did with the Yankees, Urena eventually would go back to New Orleans, where he would again be groomed as a starter.
There is no question Urena, signed as an free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2008, has promise. He’s logged 638 Minor League innings, and posts a 45-37 record with a 3.58 ERA.
But he’s not a finished product. His breaking ball needs some work. And because of his arm angle, it may be a pitch he struggles with from time to time. Now, instead of ironing out his mechanics at Triple-A, he will be facing big league batters.
Does he have the stuff to get hitters out at the highest level? Absolutely. But does he have all the polish? Not necessarily.
For now, Urena is along for the ride. Miami’s rotation has yet to settle into a consistent rhythm. As long as there is uncertainty, Urena is a fallback option.
— Joe Frisaro