Today is the day. The day when the baseball diamond is a church and fans flock to stadium to serve as its congregation. For Miami Marlins’ pitcher Jose Urena, it’s just another day for him as he prepares for his first Opening Day assignment.
It’s an honor Urena doesn’t take lightly, but as he explained to the media this week, it’s like any other pitching experience. He prepares for today like every other time he walks to the bump. For Jose Urena, this is the continuation of his growth as the Marlins’ top starter, the man who has been named No. 1 by manager Don Mattingly.
“It’s routine,” Urena said via MLB.com. “It’s what you do all the time, day by day. You wake up in the morning, brush your teeth. Normal routine. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
It’s the same kind of mentality Urena has had since making the team last season as a reliever and moving to the rotation where he dug his cleats in the dirt. The season yielded 14 wins in an otherwise disappointing season for the Marlins’ pitching staff.
Urena is not what many would consider a true front-line pitcher or ace of a staff. He still needs to work on his consistency. There is also some who wonder if last season can be duplicated. He and Dan Straily make up the Marlins top pitching combination. Straily is on the disabled list. Urena is the one looked to as an anchor – someone who can carry the load while the staff gels in the first few weeks of the season.
Urena is experiencing his first Opening Day assignment. Jon Lester, the pitcher opposing him for the Chicago Cubs, will take the mound for the seventh time.
“Seven,” Urena said of Lester. “Hopefully, he can get eight. But it’s a normal game. It’s two pitchers, one on each team. At the end of the day, we’re trying to do the things we’ve learned, put it together and be ready to roll tomorrow.”
The Marlins signed Jose Urena on August 28, 2009, and he played for two seasons with the Dominican Summer League Marlins. In 2011, he played in short season Single-A with the Jamestown Jammers, posting a 4.33 ERA in 15 starts. In 2012, he advanced to full-season Single-A, posting a 3.38 ERA in 138.1 innings with the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
In 2013, he played in high Single-A with the Jupiter Hammerheads, pitching 149.2 innings with a 3.73 ERA. In 2014, he amassed a record of 13-8, pitching 162 innings with 121 strikeouts and a 3.33 ERA. Urena began the 2015 season with the New Orleans Zephyrs of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. Urena was called up to the majors for the first time on April 13, 2015 to replace David Phelps. In his first major league start on May 26, 2015, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he gave up 5 runs in 4 2/3 innings and took the 5-1 loss.
Manager Don Mattingly has confidence in his starter, but wants to see a more consistent pitcher on the mound if he is going to evolve into a solid ace on a rotation that is desperate need of a true ace.
“You want him where he’s throwing the ball and keeping us in pretty much every game,” Mattingly said. “I think that’s what you ask of top-of-the-line guys. You feel like when he pitches, he’s going to be out there for a while. Those are the kinds of guys, you feel like they’re going to go six. You’re going to be out there, and you’re going to be in the game.”