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Mattingly taps Urena for Opening Day

Righty building off excellent 2017, ready to get club going in new direction
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Spring Training secret of who will start for the Marlins on Opening Day has been revealed. Manager Don Mattingly on Saturday morning ended the suspense by announcing Jose Urena will take the mound on March 29 against the Cubs at Marlins Park.

Since camp got underway on Feb. 14, Mattingly noted that the decision came down to Urena and Dan Straily, who gets the nod in Game 2. The other three rotation spots remain up for grabs.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- The Spring Training secret of who will start for the Marlins on Opening Day has been revealed. Manager Don Mattingly on Saturday morning ended the suspense by announcing Jose Urena will take the mound on March 29 against the Cubs at Marlins Park.

Since camp got underway on Feb. 14, Mattingly noted that the decision came down to Urena and Dan Straily, who gets the nod in Game 2. The other three rotation spots remain up for grabs.

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Mattingly made the news official after the Marlins topped the Cardinals, 7-3, at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

Before the game, Mattingly called Urena and Straily together and informed them of his decision.

"Again, it was either/or," Mattingly said. "I know they both wanted it. It seems all pitchers would love that honor of pitching Opening Day. It really was almost a coin flip. It could have gone either way."

Video: Mattingly names Urena as 2018 Opening Day starter

The Cubs have already announced Jon Lester will pitch the opener, with Kyle Hendricks going in Game 2.

The Marlins are revamping their roster, and they are counting on Urena and Straily to front a youthful starting staff.

"It's going to be a little bit crazy on Opening Day, different routines," Mattingly said. "I think Dan is a little more routine-oriented than Jose. I think it will be more of a normal day the second day. Jose, with the craziness, I don't mind him being a little jacked up, trying to throw 105[mph], instead of 100."

Urena and Straily present different styles. Urena is emotionally driven and a hard thrower. According to Statcast™, his average four-seam fastball sat at 95.8 mph in 2017.

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Straily is more of a tactician, who manipulates the strike zone with a low-90s fastball, along with his slider and offspeed pitches. Statcast™ had his average four-seam fastball velocity at 90.4 mph a year ago.

Homegrown, Urena was an international signing for the Marlins out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, and he made his big league debut in 2015.

"Jose is a big energy guy," Mattingly said. "I know Dan wanted it, too."

In 2017, Urena had a breakout year, pacing the team in wins. The hard-throwing right-hander went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 34 games, with 28 starts. Urena's 169 2/3 innings were second to Straily's 181 2/3.

Urena's rise to the top of the rotation wasn't an easy one.

In fact, last Spring Training, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder didn't know if he had a future with the organization. He was out of options in 2017, meaning he had to make the squad or risk being cut loose.

"Jose is a guy who has always had good stuff," Mattingly said. "He's a guy who got an opportunity. He had different opportunities before, but it just didn't kick in. Last year, it seemed to click more than other years. You hope the improvement comes from there."

Now, Urena has the title of ace of the staff.

"When you're out of options, you've got to do the thing you know, the things you can control," Urena said. "You can do well, but maybe they have somebody else who can take that spot."

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

Miami Marlins, Dan Straily, Jose Urena