A day after being selected as the Marlins’ Opening Day starter, Jose Ureña took the news in stride as he prepares for what he hopes is a successful season in the rotation.
“I just took it like normal,” Ureña said. “Some people take it that way but I don’t take it in that way. I’m not prepared for just one start. I try to be healthy and do the best you can every fifth day when I get out on the mound.”
Ureña, who would become the Marlins’ 16th different Opening Day starter as the franchise begins its 26th season, would face Jon Lester on March 29 when the Marlins open the 2018 campaign against the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park.
Mattingly said on Saturday he felt like Ureña would feed off the extra energy that comes with Opening Day games.
Ureña said he doesn’t want to get caught up in the emotions of such a moment, however.
“The thing is, for me I think all the time, it’s good where you don’t get that hyped,” Ureña said. “If you get that emotional, maybe you don’t do the things you do all the time. Because you’ll be a little hyper, maybe you try to do too much.”
Mattingly said Ureña’s turnaround in a year going from the uncertainty of possibly not even making the Marlins’ roster last spring to topping its rotation is an example of perseverance for the team’s young prospects.
Ureña was out of options last spring, which meant the Marlins couldn’t send him back to the minors without clearing waivers first. After starting the season in the bullpen, he joined the rotation and turned into one of the team’s best starters, going 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA.
“Jose’s come a long way from when I saw him four or five years ago when I was with the Dodgers,” Mattingly said. “I’m seeing this skinny, young kid and now we’re seeing a body that’s developed…more maturity on the mound…better use of his secondaries…learning to prepare. He really watches games when he’s not pitching and pays attention. You see a guy that’s just maturing from a guy that’s just trying to survive at the big league level to a guy that now has a chance and is starting to get some tools where he can take it to another level. And that’s what we’re hoping for him.”
Ureña’s teammates credited his work ethic and intense training as factors in his development over the past couple of years.
Ureña, who is often in the weight room for extended amounts of time before or even after pitching outings, has matured into a player who takes care of his body and sticks to a routine that has benefited him on the mound.
“If you see him working out and just how he goes about his business, he’s the real deal,” Marlins third baseman Martin Prado said. “When you see a guy like that, you forget about this guy because you know he knows what to do. When you have a group like this so young and so talented and you see a guy leading the way for others that’s always a good thing.”
Prado said Ureña isn’t giving his Opening Day opportunity that much thought and instead is concentrating on preparing for the grind of a full season.
“He’s not focused on Opening Day,” Prado said. “I think he’s focused on throwing 250 innings. He’d throw 300 innings if he could. It’s good to see a guy that you don’t have to say anything to him. You just have to throw it to him and the young guys will watch him work.”
Prado said Ureña picked up some of his high-energy pitching style from watching late Marlins’ All-Star Jose Fernandez, who started on Opening Day for the Marlins in 2014.
“He got to feel part of the intensity and how to go hard and attack the hitters,” Prado said. “He got that from Jose. He just had that. Now he just put everything together and now you have a complete package. I’m really happy he got the opportunity just because last year he was just in the mix. He never said anything, never looked back or to the side or tried to find excuses. He just was a guy who worked hard and got an opportunity to see what he’s capable of on a daily basis.”
Tuesday: Marlins RHP Jose Ureña vs. St. Louis Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.