Miami Marlins

The Marlins’ Ureña said he’s been ‘misunderstood,’ and he won’t change pitching style

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena runs before the start of a Major League Baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on Thursday, August 23, 2018.
Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena runs before the start of a Major League Baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on Thursday, August 23, 2018. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

He’s been called ‘classless,’ ‘shameful,’ ‘weak,’ and plenty of other words not suitable for print on social media over the past week.

Many called what he did ‘intentional’ and ‘bush league.’

Marlins pitcher Jose Ureña used another word to describe what he’s been in the nine days since he hit Braves’ star Ronald Acuña Jr. with a pitch: ‘Misunderstood.’

“It hurts because I have a family,” Ureña said in Spanish earlier this week. “People are going to say what they want to say. But the people that really know me that spend time with me and people I interact with on other teams know the kind of person I am and how Ilike to pitch. Some like it. Some don’t. That’s baseball.”

Ureña has been cast by many as a villain since he fired a 97.5 mph fastball with his first pitch of that game Aug. 15 at SunTrust Park and nailed Acuña Jr. on his left elbow.

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Atlanta Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) reacts after being hit by a pitch from Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Urena in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore AP

The benches cleared twice and the incident led to Ureña being suspended by Major League Baseball for six games.

Acuña Jr., who had homered in five consecutive games to that point and led off three straight games with a home run, avoided serious injury and returned to Atlanta’s lineup the next game.

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Ureña talks about getting ejected from Wednesday’s game after hitting Ronald Acuña, Jr. with the game’s first pitch.

Ureña initially appealed the suspension, but dropped it on Tuesday and will serve the remaining four games of the penalty during the Marlins’ four-game series against the Braves that begins Thursday at Marlins Park.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly said even before his appeal that the club planned to postpone Ureña’s next start until Tuesday in Boston.

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Miami Marlins second baseman Starlin Castro (13) holds starting pitcher Jose Urena (62) back as they argue with Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker (43) after Urena hit Braves Ronald Acuns Jr. with a pitch in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore AP

Despite dealing with the intense criticism and venom directed his way, Ureña took the mound Sunday in Washington and threw his first career complete game and the Marlins’ first since June 3, 2017 when Edinson Volquez threw a no-hitter at Marlins Park.

Ureña touched 99 mph on his fastball — higher than his 95.8 mph average for this season — and gave up only one run on two hits with four strikeouts, two walks and did not hit a batter.

“He’s a good kid,” Mattingly said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk out there about what happened and maybe rightfully so however they want to look at it. But this is a good kid, really competitive and an extremely hard worker. We kind of expected him to pitch well so not a lot of surprise he did that.”

Ureña stuck firm to his defense that the incident was not intentional.

“He who’s without sin cast the first stone,” Ureña said. “Many have taken what happened personally, but it’s baseball. I always try to do the right thing. Life’s strange sometimes. You do things some people like and some people don’t. It’s something you can’t control. You can’t make everyone happy. Everyone makes up their own minds.”

Marlins manager Don Mattingly reacts to Jose Ureña’s ejection in the first inning after hitting Atlanta Braves left fielder Ronald Acuña Jr.

Ureña also stated as he did after the game that night that he won’t change the way he pitches and continue to pitch batters aggressively on the inner half of the strike zone.

“My pitching style won’t change because that’s who I am,” Ureña said. “It’s the only way I know how to pitch.”

Ureña said that while the days since have been trying his teammates have been supportive.

“My teammates have really supported me,” Ureña said. “They’re more than just teammates to me. We’re like a family here.”

Ureña said he asked Acuña if he was ok right after he hit him with the pitch.

Acuña spent a few moments on the ground near the left field line getting looked at by team trainers. He then walked past the mound and flipped his shin guard in Ureña’s direction which escalated matters as both teams confronted each other for a second time at the mound after each side had begun walking back to their respective dugouts and bullpens.

Ureña said he felt no need to reach out to Acuña at this point.

“I did what I needed to do,” Ureña said. “After it happened, I asked him if he was ok. A lot of people think I said something bad to him, but I just asked if he was ok. He knows exactly what I said. I didn’t think it was right that he threw something back my way. At this point, it’s not worth [reaching out].”

COMING UP

Friday: Miami Marlins RHP Dan Straily (4-6, 4.60 ERA) vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Foltynewicz (10-7, 2.72), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

Saturday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (4-9, 5.20) vs. Braves RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-4, 3.13), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

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