MIAMI -- Getting the nod to pitch Opening Day is the dream of all starting pitchers. As much as he's embracing the opportunity, Marlins right-hander Jose Urena is doing his best to treat Thursday like any other day."It's routine," Urena said. "It's what you do all the time, day by
MIAMI -- Getting the nod to pitch Opening Day is the dream of all starting pitchers. As much as he's embracing the opportunity, Marlins right-hander Jose Urena is doing his best to treat Thursday like any other day.
"It's routine," Urena said. "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."
The wakeup call will be early for the Marlins and Urena on Thursday, as they open the MLB season at 12:40 p.m. ET against the Cubs at Marlins Park. Fans are encouraged to arrive early, with a concert by DJ Khaled and Poo Bear scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET.
Urena, 26, will be making his first Opening Day start, while the Cubs are going with veteran Jonathan Lester, who will be starting his seventh opener.
"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 are hopeful Urena can build upon his 14-7 season in 2017, when he had a 3.82 ERA.
To truly be a front-line starter, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Urena needs more consistency.
"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."
Castro faces Cubs
Facing the Cubs will be like old times for Marlins second baseman Starlin Castro. The 28-year-old played for Chicago from 2010-15, before spending the past two seasons with the Yankees.
"Its special," Castro said. "It was special last year, too, when I played in Chicago the first time since I left. I think it's going to be fun. It's good to see them again."
When Castro was with the Cubs, they were building toward the playoff-caliber club they are today.
The Marlins are following a similar path to build from the ground up.
"It's kind of the same thing," Castro said. "When I was in Chicago, we had the type of group that we have now -- a lot of young guys, a lot of guys with a lot of talent. We as a team believe it. They have a lot of talent and they are going to be good players."
Reserved for Rojas
The Marlins honored the memory of Jose Fernandez in 2017 by encasing his locker, which was on the far end of the clubhouse. The team now is remembering Fernandez, who died in a boating accident in '16, with a plaque on a column on the West Plaza.
His locker in the clubhouse this year will either be vacant or used by shortstop Miguel Rojas.
Because there were extra players needed on Tuesday in the Marlins' 22-2 win over the University of Miami, more lockers were used. So Rojas was given Fernandez's old spot. But with the rosters being set at 25, Rojas' locker is now the one next to the far end. A year ago, that belonged to Marcell Ozuna, who is now with the Cardinals.
The veterans on the team decided that when necessary, Rojas would take Fernandez's old spot. Otherwise, he will be next to it.
"We're trying to keep this open another year," Rojas said. "Like in September, in case we need every other locker, then I will take it for that. But it will be empty when not every locker is occupied."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.