Urena makes strong case to stay in rotation

Urena makes strong case to stay in rotation

PHILADELPHIA -- The back end of the Marlins' rotation has been a revolving door of four-inning starts and five-run outings. Manager Don Mattingly has been looking for a bookend to his one through four starters of Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler, Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley.

Mattingly might have found his guy in Jose Urena, who tossed 5 2/3 frames of one-run ball in the Marlins' 2-1, 10-inning win over the Phillies on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park for Miami's seventh win in its last eight.

"He's earned -- in my mind -- at least the consideration for that," Mattingly said. "Unless we have any kind of trouble with our 'pen where we need to be able to do something different, I don't know why we'd make a change right now."

Urena? The guy with a 7.52 ERA out of the bullpen before being demoted last month? Indeed.

"I feel so comfortable being a starter," Urena said. "It's comfortable for me because that's what I've been doing so far."

The 24-year-old righty has been a rotation arm for the duration of his time in the Marlins' organization, starting 87 percent of the games he appeared in through the Minors since debuting in the Dominican Summer League as an 18-year-old.

Of his 20 outings last season, nine were starts. In those, plus his first 2016 start on Tuesday, Urena has posted a 4.59 ERA compared to a 7.07 mark out of the bullpen.

The Marlins used him as a reliever in the big leagues this season when the bullpen struggled early on, making his first of 16 relief appearances in the same game as Jarred Cosart's last as the original No. 5 starter. Cosart walked six Giants and allowed six runs over 4 1/3 innings. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans after the game with Justin Nicolino set to take over the role.

Urena's five-out save

Nicolino posted a 4.50 ERA in seven starts spanning the time it took Urena to rack up a 7.52 mark. On June 1, the Marlins demoted Urena, intent on stretching him back out into a starter. After one more solid showing -- two runs over 5 1/3 against the Mets on June 4 -- Nicolino imploded, surrendering 10 runs on 22 hits over his next two starts.

Paul Clemens made a brief appearance in the five spot, turning in two five-inning performances of three and four runs, respectively, before being claimed off waivers by the Padres.

With Nicolino back in the rotation, Urena threw his two best games in the Minors this year. He tossed 4 2/3 innings in back-to-back scoreless starts. In the Majors, Nicolino lasted nine combined frames between his final two starts heading into the All-Star break, giving up four runs apiece.

The Marlins went nearly two weeks without a fifth starter -- neither on the 25-man roster nor in the minds of the front office or the coaching staff. Urena seemingly got the nod by default. But he took advantage and recorded his best game at the Major League level since at least last June, if not for his career.

Mattingly was hesitant to say he earned the spot for good, but without a trade acquisition over the next rotation turn, Urena pitched well enough to at least get another start, which would fall on Sunday against the Mets at Marlins Park.

Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.