This is Jose Urena’s sixth chance to pitch in the majors.
This one seems different.
“I’ve been working on keeping the ball down and being aggressive to hitters,” Urena said. “I’m trying to take advantage, pitch by pitch. It feels better.”
Urena spent his rookie season in 2015 bouncing back and forth from the minors to the majors and from the Marlins’ starting rotation to the bullpen.
But Urena’s last two starts since being recalled this past Tuesday have given the Marlins a reason to ponder the possibility of keeping the 24-year old Dominican right-hander as a starter.
Urena is 1-1 with a 1.54 ERA, allowing only two runs in 11 2/3 innings since being brought up from Triple-A to fill the vacant fifth starter spot following the All-Star break. Urena replaced Justin Nicolino, who was sent to the minors.
The Marlins continue to explore trade possibilities for pitchers such as Jeremy Hellickson (who started for the Phillies Monday night), Wade Miley (Mariners) and Andrew Cashner (Padres).
Urena’s improvement – should it continue – has come at an opportune time with the Marlins negotiating to add pieces before the August 1 deadline and in the wake of Wei-Yin Chen landing on the disabled list with an elbow sprain.
“Those two starts, he’s shown a feel of keeping the ball down and been more successful,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “That’s really encouraging for us.”
Over his first two seasons, Urena has not been able to maintain this level of success for a prolonged amount of time.
Urena made nine starts in 2015, going 1-5 with a 4.86 ERA in 46 1/3 innings, but he put together some positive results during his first month in the rotation after being called up in late May.
After a poor outing in his first start in which he gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings, Urena compiled a 2.86 ERA over his next six starts (34 2/3 innings).
Urena was then optioned in early July after Jose Fernandez was activated from the DL, and then called back up in August.
He didn’t last long his second go-round, giving up a combined nine runs in seven innings over two starts that led to another demotion. Upon his return in September, Urena was used only as a reliever, appearing in nine games with a 5.84 ERA in 12 1/3 innings.
Urena first pitched on April 22 this season out of the bullpen where he remained until late May. His results were a 7.52 ERA in 20 1/3 relief innings (16 appearances) with 12 strikeouts and 10 walks (a 1.20 ratio).
Urena has nine strikeouts and only one walk since his return last week as a starter.
Urena was 1-3 with a 3.99 ERA in 10 starts in the minors this season with a 1.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“I’m just being focused, trying to control the things I can control,” Urena said. “I’m trying to make a quality pitch, and if something happens, be ready for it.”
Mattingly said Chen had experienced a bit of soreness in his left elbow before the All-Star break, but he had hoped the time off would correct the problem.
“For the most part it sounds like he had a little soreness before the break and he thought the 10 days off would help,” Mattingly said. “He felt pretty good in St. Louis, but in his second start, he felt it was something he had to let somebody know.”
▪ The Marlins were hoping Justin Bour (right ankle sprain) could start a rehab assignment as early as Thursday. Mattingly said Bour has continued to experience discomfort during running drills, which could set back the timetable for his return further.
▪ Dee Gordon remains on schedule to return from his 80-game suspension on Thursday. In Gordon’s six rehab games in the minors, he’s gone 5 for 22, but has at least one hit in each of his past four games including two in Sunday’s game.
▪ Chris Johnson, who fouled a pitch off his left foot Saturday, did not start Monday, but was available to come off the bench.
Tuesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42 ERA) vs. Phillies RHP Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98 ERA), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Wednesday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58 ERA) vs. Phillies RHP Zach Eflin (3-3, 3.40 ERA), 12:10 p.m., Marlins Park.