Marlins starter-turned-reliever Jose Urena will be given the chance to become the team’s permanent closer when he returns next week.
Joe Frisaro of MLB.com wrote what we already knew was brewing within the organization – that after a long stay on the team’s Injured List for a herniated disc, Urena will be given the chance to nail down the closer’s role in the final month of the season and potentially the 2020 season as well.
The Marlins may have looked to trade Urena prior to the deadline this season if not for the back injury. Given the team’s depth in the rotation on the Major League and minor league level, he was expendable. Now, he has a chance to stick around in a new role.
The move also means the Marlins will have a new starter in the rotation on Opening Day 2020 than the starting five from this season.
"“We talked about this as a way to get him back on the field this year,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Knowing his mentality, and the way he attacks, we thought that might be the right way to be able to protect him, as far as getting him up, getting him ready and giving him more time.”"
Would the potential of short work, along with a 95-mph fastball allow Urena to become one of the better closers in the game? Mattingly and the front office hopes so.
"“Before the injury, Urena made 13 starts and was 4-7 with a 4.70 ERA. The Marlins also have had trouble locking down late leads since trading relievers Sergio Romo, Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards in late July,” Frisaro writes.“By having Urena close, the Marlins can better manage his usage. This way, he will know he will work the ninth inning, or perhaps the eighth, when he is called upon in one-plus innings save situations.”"
Urena started his career in Miami as a reliever and spot-starter. He was moved to the rotation permanently in 2017 and won 14 games for the team. Injuries and lack of run support have played a major role in a 9-12 record in 2018 and the record he has posted this season.
The Marlins will expand their rosters next Friday, and will also bring back starter Pablo Lopez from the I.L. after he has been dealing with a shoulder strain. Lopez will return to the rotation, but how many starts he gets over the final month of 2019 is not known. He may start this coming week if available.
Having Urena come out of the bullpen also gives Miami more stability because of the lack of steady veteran relievers on the roster.
"“If you just say, ‘We are going to pitch him out of the bullpen,’ it could be anywhere, and then you’re stuck in situations where, all of a sudden, you have to get him up and get him going,” Mattingly said. “We have guys down there who are used to 10 or 12 [warmup] pitches, and they’re ready to go.”"