Picking José Ureña to be the Marlins’ Opening Day starter wasn’t all that tough for Don Mattingly. He really only had one other choice: Dan Straily.
“A coin flip,” Mattingly said. “Either or.”
It’s filling in the rest of the rotation blanks that should prove difficult.
Mattingly on Saturday dispensed of what little intrigue there was involving his Opening Day starter when he announced that Ureña would throw the season’s first pitch for the Marlins in their March 29 opener against the Cubs. He brought both pitchers into his office on Saturday to inform them of his decision.
“I know they both wanted it,” Mattingly said. “It seems like all pitchers love that honor pitching Opeining Day. You could have gone either way. I don’t feel like it makes a difference. We need both these guys to throw 30 starts, and they both know that.”
Ureña will become the 16th different pitcher to start a Marlins opener. Straily will start the following day.
Mattingly said he went with Ureña because he felt he would better feed off the extra energy that comes with Opening Day games.
“José, with the craziness, I don’t mind him being a little jacked up trying to throw 105 intead of 100,” Mattingly said. “I think he’s an energy guy. I think he likes the excitement of an Opening Day. I know Dan wanted it, too. But Jose in a sense, what he does out there, he’s more off energy than what Dan does.”
A year ago, Ureña went to spring training uncertain of his future. He was out of options, 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 blossomed into one of the Marlins’ top starters, going 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA.
“Hopefully, improvement continues to come from that,” Mattingly said. “You see, just physically, a guy that’s changing all the time. He was really lean [initially]. This is a guy that’s kind of turned into a man in the sense of his body.”
Straily would have liked to pitch the opener, too.
“Everyone in here that shows up to camp with starting pitcher attached to their name, you want Opening Day,” Straily said. “That’s like a rite of passage. It’s an honor to be Opening Day starter.”
But he’ll have to settle for second-day status.
“You hope for it,” Straily said. “But it’s not like if you don’t get it it’s a huge letdown, because you’re still preparing for the same amount of work during the season. We’re not preparing for one start. Our job is for 34-plus.”
Knowing that they were the Marlins’ only sure bets for the five-man rotation, Straily said he and Ureña remained in regular communication over the offseason, texting back and forth.
“We talked about different things, just going back and forth about what we’re trying to bring culture-wise to the guys around us in the starting pitcher roles,” Straily said. “What makes a starting staff elite, and how can we work toward going in that direction? By example, how can we instill those types of things in our organization.”
As Straily put it, “You can’t find a more distinct one-two [pair of pitchers] of what we bring to the table, how we go about our business getting outs, how we go about our business between starts.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Giancarlo Stanton is not expected to make the trip to Jupiter on Sunday when the New York Yankees face his former team. He wasn’t listed on the Yankees’ travel roster. The Yankees are planning to send Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez to Roger Dean Stadium for Sunday’s game.
▪ First baseman Justin Bour was scratched from Saturday’s lineup because of back spasms. Mattingly said it wasn’t a serious issue and expects Bour to return to the lineup in the near future.