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Marlins need to use José Ureña as a starter

The Dominican hasn’t had success as a reliever and is the most experienced arm on the big league team. Here’s why he must remain in the rotation.

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at Houston Astros Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

Among the options that the Marlins have to fill their rotation, José Ureña must be included. Starting in the second half hast year, the Dominican was used entirely as a bullpen arm, and it didn’t go well. Of course, he’s been almost exclusively a starter since he made his debut with Miami in 2015, and it has to stay that way.

Why? Well, there are a few reasons.

First, the righty is the most experienced hurler among Marlins starting pitchers. He’s been in the majors for five seasons and has had success in that span. Back in 2017, for example, Ureña won 14 games and recorded a 3.82 ERA across 169.2 innings.

Despite not-so-good statistics in 2019, José wasn’t bad in the aforementioned role. In fact, eight of his 13 outings qualified as quality starts. The reason for his high 4.70 ERA was two appearances against the Braves that resulted in 11 earned runs over nine frames.

Second, no other pitcher on the big league squad has compiled more quality starts than Ureña since 2015. He’s registered 40, four more than Tom Koehler (36), 14 more than José Fernández (26), and 18 more than Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley (22 each) over that time.

Third, based on his total numbers, the 28-year-old has not been good as a reliever. In 2019, he took three losses and was rocked with 14 hits, 10 earned runs, and three home runs in only 11 appearances.

But in general, he’s 1-4, 6.20 ERA in 44 games as a reliever. His 1.66 WHIP plus his 42 earned runs in 61 innings are not a good combination. Those stats are way worse than the ones he’s put up as a starter: 31-39, 4.37 ERA, 93 GS.

Besides, since nothing has changed for the worse for him, you could expect Ureña to have a rebound season. The Dominican indeed had a poor second half of the 2019 campaign, but his velocity is still there (95.8 MPH on his sinker), he’s making hitters chase pitches (36.1 O-Swing%), and had a high .323 BABIP.

There is hope that Ureña could unlock more of his potential moving forward thanks to a few adjustments. During 2020 Spring Training, he showed a simplified delivery and changed the shape of his slider after getting poor results with it last season (.302 BA/.585 SLG against).

Whether or not the Marlins are planning to trade him, Ureña needs to pitch every fifth day for sure. That will get the best production out of him, maximizing the team’s success while boosting his own value on the market.