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Urena shows resolve in minimizing damage

At some point in season, reliever may become starter
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- Marlins right-hander Jose Urena is making the most of a difficult situation. A starter throughout his Minor League career, and still a potential starter in the big leagues, the 25-year-old is waiting patiently in the bullpen for long-relief opportunities.

One came quickly in the second inning on Friday in Miami's 12-2 loss to the Pirates at Marlins Park. On a night Adam Conley lasted just 1 2/3 innings, Urena picked up 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs, and helping preserve the bullpen.

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MIAMI -- Marlins right-hander Jose Urena is making the most of a difficult situation. A starter throughout his Minor League career, and still a potential starter in the big leagues, the 25-year-old is waiting patiently in the bullpen for long-relief opportunities.

One came quickly in the second inning on Friday in Miami's 12-2 loss to the Pirates at Marlins Park. On a night Adam Conley lasted just 1 2/3 innings, Urena picked up 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs, and helping preserve the bullpen.

View Full Game Coverage

Urena set a dubious team record in the process, as he allowed 12 hits, the most in franchise history by a reliever. Still, he showed poise and induced three double-play ground balls.

Video: PIT@MIA: Urena induces double play with bases loaded

"It's a tough role," manager Don Mattingly said. "He, obviously, doesn't like [not being] really sharp, but it's almost like, how do we expect him to be sharp when he didn't really pitch much before Seattle? He pitched in Seattle and doesn't pitch until here."

Never knowing when he'll be called upon, Urena went 11 days between appearances, last throwing four innings on April 17 at Seattle.

"He battled. He gave us innings," Mattingly said. "He gave us what his role is right now. I'm not sure it's necessarily fair to him, but he did a great job of hanging in there and fighting for us, and giving us a chance to put our 'pen together and giving us a chance to win a game [Saturday] night, and moving forward from that. His outing can affect two or three games."

For now, Urena's in a difficult spot. But at some point in the season, he may find himself back in a more comfortable routine, as a starter. Currently, there are no openings, but that may change in time.

In Spring Training, Mattingly talked about wanting to see Urena show he can minimize damage. He's tended to let innings escalate, but that wasn't the case on Friday.

Urena logged 86 pitches in the series opener, taking over for Conley, who was tagged for eight runs in the second inning and nine for the game.

"That was a tough situation," Urena said. "But in the bullpen, you've got to be ready, something can happen in the game. You've got to get [ready] as quickly as possible as you can."

Urena is the hardest thrower on the roster. His four-seam fastball, per Statcast™, on Friday averaged 96.1 mph, and he maxed at 97.5 mph, which makes him an intriguing rotation option.

But getting sharp is tough when not being used regularly.

"That's part of my job, part of my role," Urena said. "All the time [in the Minor Leagues], I was in the starter position. But I can be a long-reliever. When I get out there, I try to do what I can to support the team. Those [starters], you've got to protect them."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Jose Urena