It is not final, but it is likely that the Miami Marlins will turn to Brad Hand and Jose Urena for the two remaining starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates this week as the team embarks on a six-game road trip. The Fish will task these two to take spots recently vacated by Mat Latos and Jarred Cosart, who are on the disabled list with varying ailments.
As the Marlins' pitching depth is tested, the team might turn to one old name and a new one for temporary measures.
Jose Urena and Brad Hand are possible choices for the open starting slots. Urena, a right-hander currently pitching for Triple-A New Orleans, made two relief appearances for the Marlins earlier in the season and leads the Pacific Coast League with a 1.21 ERA. Hand, who’s been pitching out of the bullpen, was impressive in two-thirds of an inning of relief during Sunday’s 5-2 win against the Orioles.
"We’re fortunate we have choices like that you can reach to," [manager Dan Jennings] said.
Hand has mostly pitched out of the bullpen in mopup situations so far this season, so he has essentially served as the Marlins' walking white flag in games. However, in the 20 innings he has thrown, he has pitched passably despite a 5.48 ERA. He owns an 18.6 percent strikeout rate and a 6.2 percent walk rate early in 2015, and he has maintained some of the ground ball prowess he showed last year. Even after adjusting for the fact that he has yet to allow a home run, he still owns a 3.32 xFIP and 3.34 SIERA, and his hard-hit ball rate has not been significantly higher this season to indicate why he would have allowed a .345 BABIP so far.
Still, Hand is a well-known commodity who is likely at best a fifth starter and at worst not a Major Leaguer, so the likely result is that he is not a long-term option of any kind. However, Urena remains a Marlins prospect who could earn a starting pitcher nod in the future and could be a long-term option if one of the three current Marlins starters remain on the DL for an extended period. Urena has superficially strong numbers in Triple-A so far this season, as he has a 1.21 ERA and 3.85 FIP in 37 innings. After retaining essentially static strikeout and walk numbers in each of his last three seasons from Low-A Greensboro to Double-A Jacksonville, Urena is walking more hitters and striking out fewer batters this year.
The one positive is that he has not allowed a lot of home runs thus far after giving up acceptable, slightly lower-than-average home run rates in the last two years. He has upped his ground ball rate this season so far, up to 52 percent from his previous career best of 46 percent last season. This could be an interesting development heading into a potential start
Urena did struggle in two bullpen outings with Miami this year, giving up a home run and three runs in three innings pitched. However, that small sample should not scare the Marlins from trying Urena for a stint in the bigs.
The other option would have been Justin Nicolino, but it seems unlikely that Miami would bring him up for this particular set of games. Nicolino just made his last start on May 23, meaning he would be on regular schedule to play again on May 28, beyond when the Marlins would need him. Urena, on the other hand, missed his scheduled recent start, which makes him rested and signals a pending call-up.