As odd as it may seem, the pitcher who might have been the most excited to learn the Miami Marlins traded for Dan Straily was Jose Urena. It would appear the team will give Urena every opportunity to win a spot in the rotation starting at spring training next month.
Urena is out of options and could be outrighted, which could mean the team would lose him to another ball club. When Miami traded minor league prospects late last week, it also meant Urena is still part of the team’s plan for the future. But what that plan is still hasn’t been determined.
The Marlins signed the 25-year-old 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. He advanced to full-season Single-A in 2012, 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 spent time between Triple-A New Orleans and the parent team last year, filling in as the team’s fifth starter.
Per MLB.com, manager Don Mattingly, pitching coach Juan Nieves and vice president of pitching development Jim Benedict will be spending plenty of time evaluating who should make the starting five and who will wind up in either the bullpen or at Triple-A New Orleans.
"We have pitchers who we feel are all starter candidates," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "In talking with Donnie and Juan Nieves, we're going to let those guys compete for the five starter spots. Some of that grouping has options, so they may end up as depth at Triple-A, and others may end up as length options for us at the Major League level."
Front-runners to be at the top of the rotation are -- in no particular order -- Edinson Volquez, Adam Conley and Wei-Yin Chen. Tom Koehler, who has been the club's most durable starter the past few years, projects to be the third or fourth starter. The addition of Straily will strengthen the rotation, but it could also force the team to make some difficult decisions. It also means David Phelps will return to the bullpen on a permanent basis. Phelps spent time in the rotation and in relief as well last season. He could be the primary set-up man for closer AJ Ramos.
Since four starters are set, Straily and left-hander Jeff Locke are the leading candidates for the fifth spot. Hill pointed out that Urena and left-hander Justin Nicolino also are in the mix. And, according to reportst, you can't rule out Odrisamer Despaigne and Jake Esch, who both pitched in the big leagues late last year. Those two, however, are expected to be in New Orleans' rotation when the season gets going.