This offseason, Fish Stripes will be counting down (up?) the Top 100 Marlins of all time, as defined by their on-field contributions and quantified by their collective WAR ratings. Yesterday, we took a look at current rotation starter Adam Conley. Today, we'll shift our focus to the 2003 World Champion Marlins, and the contribution made by reliever Ugueth Urbina.
Urbina was a 6'2", 185 lb. right-handed pitcher from Caracas, Venezuala. Born on February 15th, 1974, he was initially signed as an amateur free agent by the Montreal Expos in 1990. He would go on to join the Gulf Coast League (rookie-level) Expos the following season, getting into their rotation for 10 starts. He put up a 2.29 ERA and a 1.079 WHIP, going 3-3 and whiffing 51 in 63.0 innings pitched.
In 1992, Urbina joined the single-A level Albany Polecats in the South Atlantic League for 24 rotation starts, going 7-13 with a 3.22 ERA, a 1.159 WHIP, and 100 strikeouts in 142.1 innings. The following season would see him laterally promoted to the single-A Burlington Bees in the Midwest League, where he posted a 10-1 record over 16 starts, with 107 K's in 108.1 innings and a 1.052 WHIP. Later in the season, Montreal promoted him to the double-A level, where he made 11 starts with the Harrisburg Senators in the Eastern League. He went 4-5 with a 4.11 ERA, a 1.400 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts in 70.0 innings as a Senator.
1994 would see Urbina remain in the Harrisburg rotation for most of the season, making 21 starts and striking out 86 in 120.2 innings. He would go 9-3 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.152 WHIP. The following season would start with him as the #27 prospect in Baseball America, and see him split his time between the triple-A Ottawa Lynx (13 games, 6-2, 3.04 ERA, 1.059 WHIP, 55 K's, 68.0 IP) and the Montreal Expos (seven games, 2-2, 23.1 innings, 15 strikeouts, 6.17 ERA, 1.714 WHIP).
1996 would begin with Urbina ranked as the #48 prospect in Baseball America, and soon after the season started he joined the Expos for good. In six and a half seasons with Montreal, he would post a 31-26 record with a 3.52 ERA, a 1.257 WHIP, and 480 strikeouts in 406.2 innings over 296 appearances, mostly in relief. He racked up 125 saves during that time, and made the 1998 All Star team, putting up a 1.30 ERA that season. Part of the way through the 2001 campaign, the Expos traded him to the Boston Red Sox for Tomo Okha and Rich Rundles.
A season and a half with Boston would see Urbina go 1-7 with a 2.81 ERA, 49 saves, 103 whiffs in 80.0 innings, and a 1.038 WHIP, making his second all-star team in 2002. Granted free agency after that season, he inked a deal with the Texas Rangers, with whom he went 0-4 with a 4.19 ERA, a 1.319 WHIP, and 41 strikeouts in 38.2 innings through the first part of 2003. On July 11th, the Rangers traded him to the Marlins for Will Smith, future five-time all-star Adrian Gonzalez, and Ryan Snare.
After joining Florida, it became clear that the Marlins were not planning to use Urbina in the closer role, although that's where he eventually wound up. He got into 33 games for the Fish, used in high leverage situations where the Marlins were leading, and watched the team post a 28-5 record in those contests. In his first game as a Marlin, he struck out two Expos by pitching a perfect eighth in an 11-4 Marlins win on July 13th. On August 12th, he struck out three Dodgers in the seventh and eighth innings, pitching 1.2 perfect innings of an eventual 5-4, 13-inning Marlins victory. He didn't allow a hit in 18 of his appearances, and only gave up a total of six earned runs down the pennant chase. He closed the regular season with a 3-0 record for Florida, a 1.41 ERA, a 0.939 WHIP, 37 K's in 38.1 innings, and six saves.
After the Marlins qualified for the postseason as a wildcard for the second time in their 11 seasons of play, Urbina continued to pitch in a high-leverage relief role. The Marlins started by defeating the San Francisco Giants, three-games-to-one, winning their last three in a row. Guess who pitched in three games for the Marlins, and did not appear in their lone loss? Urbina pitched three innings in total, including the final one, where he nailed down his first career postseason save and preserved a 7-6 win for the Marlins on October 4th. And on that subject, do you have three hours to waste? Watch the full game (below).
When did Andrew Miller get so dominant, anyway? Sorry. Just watching Game One of the NLDS. Remember that guy? He wasn't very good while he was with us!
Aaaaanyway......Urbina pitched in four of Florida's seven games against the Chicago Cubs, striking out 10 while allowing only two baserunners over seven innings. He earned his second ever postseason save in Florida's second series clincher, Game Seven, a 9-6 Florida win (see below), and even earned the victory in Game One. He earned two saves in Florida's six-game World Series win over the New York Yankees.
Urbina was again granted free agency after the season, and signed on with the Detroit Tigers (79 games, 5-9, 30 saves, 3.87 ERA, 1.291 WHIP, 87 strikeouts, 81.1 innings) and closed out his major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies (56 games, 4-3, one save, 4.13 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, 66 strikeouts, 52.1 innings).
Urbina didn't pitch again for eight years in any capacity after his time with the Phillies due to Venezuala being, like, a really hard place to visit, even if it is your home:
Phillies pitcher Ugueth Urbina was arrested and held yesterday in Venezuela pending a formal charge of attempted murder.
Last month, Urbina and a group of men were accused of attacking five workers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them in an attempt to set them on fire. All five were injured, some with cuts and one with burns, the police said.
Urbina, who was detained late Monday, has insisted he had nothing to do with the violence at his family's ranch on Oct. 16.
The authorities said Urbina would be formally charged once he appeared before a judge. Urbina's lawyer, Josuis Tamayo, said Urbina was sleeping at the time of the incident. One victim, Argenis Far, has accused Urbina of being among the attackers.
Urbina, 31, has 237 saves and a 3.45 earned run average in 11 seasons. He is a free agent.
In September 2004, Urbina's mother, Maura Villareal, was kidnapped by drug traffickers and held for a $6 million ransom. She was rescued five months later in southern Venezuela. (AP)
Urbina ended up serving eight years in prison, only resurfacing for seven innings with Caracas in the Venezualan League in 2013.
Thanks for sticking with us through our first week of recapping Marlins history. On Monday, check back here as we take a look at the Marlins' first ever backstop.