Poised for a breakout? Urena could take next step

Poised for a breakout? Urena could take next step

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Marlins squad each day this week. Today's topic: Who might surprise?

MIAMI -- Jose Urena may be out of options, but the Marlins clearly are not out of patience with the hard-throwing right-hander. The organization has seen snapshots of brilliance from the 25-year-old, and now it is hoping he demonstrates consistency.

If he does, Urena promises to be a surprise candidate to make the Opening Day roster. Working in his favor is the fact the organization is willing to give him every opportunity to make the club, either as a starter or a reliever, during Spring Training. The Marlins' first workout for pitchers and catchers is scheduled for Feb. 14, with the first full-squad workout coming on Feb. 17.

Who might surprise for each club in 2017?

"It's a great arm," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "The one thing that you want to do is give him every opportunity to reach his potential. I think we've seen glimpses of it. Obviously, you want to see it on a consistent basis. I think that's what he's striving to do."

The Marlins are also open to carrying 13 pitchers, instead of 12, and going with a four-man bench. That may reduce manager Don Mattingly's in-game substitution options, but it also gives additional pitching depth.

It also could be Miami's answer to not being able to option Urena to Triple-A New Orleans.

Now, instead of having the Marlins' probable sixth starter logging innings in the Pacific Coast League, he could be throwing in long relief in the Majors.

The way the rotation has been constructed, the Marlins brought in three starting candidates who have a history of durability -- free agents Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke, and right-hander Dan Straily was acquired in a trade with the Reds.

They join returning rotation staples Adam Conley, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler.

All six are expected to make the club, with someone from the group winding up in long relief. That could be Locke.

The Marlins may also go with a second long reliever, which opens the door for Urena.

Home grown, the Marlins signed Urena out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. The lanky 6-foot-2, 200-pounder broke in with Miami in 2015, and last year, he was up and down, going 4-9 with a 6.13 ERA in 28 games with 12 starts.

Despite his struggles in the big leagues, Urena made 12 starts at Triple-A and posted a 3.17 ERA in 48 1/3 innings.

The statistics alone don't tell the full story of Urena's capabilities.

According to Statcast™, Urena's average four-seam fastball last year was 95.83 mph, above the MLB average of 93.04 mph. It's also the highest of any candidate in the rotation. Koehler's average is 92.57 mph, and Volquez's sinker (his primary pitch) is 93.53 mph.

For Urena, now it's a matter of showing he is ready to take that next step and be a regular in the big leagues.

"If we are able to see a more consistent version, he will help us," Hill said. "When we talk about being successful over 162 games, you're going to need as much depth as possible, and being prepared for whatever comes your way."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.