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MIAMI -- Out of seemingly nowhere, Jose Urena has emerged as perhaps the Miami Marlins' best starter.
Dan Straily has been Miami's most consistent starter all year, and Edinson Volquez has been the most spectacular, given his no-hitter.
However, Urena (6-2, 3.33 ERA), who will lead the Marlins (35-41) against the New York Mets (35-42) in the series finale Thursday, cannot be overlooked. He leads the team in wins and tops the rotation in ERA.
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It's been quite a turnaround for Urena, who was 5-14 in two years prior to 2017.
"He has always had the power," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Urena's upper-90s fastball. "But now his other pitchers are better."
Urena will face Mets right-hander Seth Lugo (2-1, 3.72 ERA), who is known for the high spin rate on his curveball.
Lugo is 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA in three career games against the Marlins. The last time he beat Miami was Sept. 28, 2016, at Marlins Park, when he allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Urena has faced the Mets eight times, including four times as a starter, and is 2-2 with a 3.30 ERA. He has allowed five homers in 30 innings.
This year, though, he is 1-0 with 0.90 ERA in three appearances (one start) against the Mets.
Urena has saved a Marlins rotation that last September had to deal with the tragic death of ace Jose Fernandez.
This year, only Volquez and Straily have been there the whole way. And Volquez started 0-7, so he hasn't been consistent at all.
Urena joined the rotation on May 7, and that has helped.
Still, the Marlins announced Wednesday that Justin Nicolino, who made five starts and had a 4.95 ERA, would be moved to the bullpen. In fact, he pitched in relief Wednesday in Miami's 8-0 loss to the Mets that leveled the series at one game apiece. Nicolino allowed one run in one-third of an inning.
Jeff Locke, who started Wednesday, is 0-4 with a 5.52 ERA. Adam Conley (2-3, 7.53 ERA) and Tom Koehler (1-2, 7.04 ERA) were ineffective and sent to the minors. Koehler, after being demoted, was later deemed injured and is technically on a rehab assignment.
Wei-Yin Chen (2-1, 4.33) made just five starts before going on the disabled list, and his return this year is in doubt. Vance Worley, the ninth starter Miami has used this year, is 0-2 with 7.59 ERA in four turns.
So Urena has saved the Marlins to the extent they have played reasonably well lately after a miserable start.
Meanwhile, the Mets are hoping to have lefty-swinging outfielder Michael Conforto ready to face the right-handed Urena on Thursday.
Conforto, who has a contusion on his left wrist after getting hit by a pitch Sunday, has missed two consecutive games.
"They said there's no break," said Conforto, revealing what doctors told him about his wrist. "It's kind of how long it takes for the soreness to go away.
"We will ice it, treat it, and, hopefully, I will be back as soon as possible. I took a few swings (in batting practice), and it was still a little bit sore."
With Mets outfielders Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce all swinging their bats reasonably well, there is perhaps no urgency to get Conforto back in the lineup. But given that Conforto was New York's best hitter for most of the first two months this season, it would be an added bonus.