Jose Urena finished his 2018 season with the Miami Marlins in a better fashion than he started. The Marlins beat the New York Mets 8-1 at Citi Field to open the last series of the season for both teams.
Jose Urena has written the best chapter of his novel and the end of this season. If a 7-3 record during the second half of 2018 could be considered a Pulitzer, then the “Ace” of the Miami Marlins pitching staff has orchestrated a prize-winning performance. An 8-1 win on the road with the team needs to find any momentum it can heading into 2019 is exactly what both Urena and the organization needed.
The win means this organization will not lose 100 games this season. It also means Urena has won six straight contest without a loss (9-12). It also proved over the second half of this season, he was as good as any starter in Major League Baseball. If the Marlins are just getting started as they have preached all season, then Urena’s journey started last season with the improbable move from the bullpen to the rotation and a 14-win season in 2017.
This season might be just as sweet, if not sweeter because of the ebb and flow he lived through in the first half of the year.
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"“The first pitch Jose Urena threw this season was belted for a leadoff home run by Ian Happ of the Cubs on Opening Day,” Joe Frisaro of MLB.com wrote. “The 27-year-old right-hander came a long way since then, and on Friday night, he capped his up-and-down year on a high note.”"
Those highs and lows included a 3-12 record at one point and an ejection and subsequent suspension for hitting Atlanta Braves rookie Ronald Acuna with a pitch on Aug. 15. He has been criticized and lauded all in the same calendar year. He heads to the offseason with a solid hold on the No. 1 position on this young pitching staff.
In September, the right-hander went 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA. While the Marlins organization has played musical chairs with its staff, bringing youngsters up from the minors, dealing with injuries to veteran Dan Straily and wondering if Wei-Yin Chen will ever win a road baseball game, Urena carried this staff on his back, proving to be an atlas of sorts.
In another rotation, he may be a fourth or fifth starter. Here in South Florida, he has become the main man everyone counts on.
Miguel Rojas helped his cause to be the team’s Opening Day shortstop in 2019. The veteran has seen his pitcher’s accomplishments, his rise from failure. Urena has done something few have been able to do this season. He gave this organization and its fans hope.
"“Even though we were out of contention, he showed that he can pitch, and he can be our ace,” Rojas said. “I’m so happy for him, because he shows signs of being an ace, and what we need.“He definitely settled after that [suspension]. I feel he came back with a mindset and a different attitude of attacking hitters. I’ve been seeing he’s working on his off-speed a little more.”"
For the season, Urena finished with a 3.98 ERA. His growth as a player is something manager Don Mattingly remembers as the skipper in Los Angeles who remembers him as a youngster first and then how he has matured the past two seasons.
"“I think guys should get better with time, with experience,” Mattingly said. “You never know how long it’s going to take a guy [to emerge]. But Jose is an extremely hard worker… Now, you see a different guy, body-wise, he just continues to work. He never really backs off of that.”"