'Vintage Jose Urena' solidifies rotation spot, leaving Detroit Tigers with a decision

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Dana Gauruder
·3 min read
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Spencer Turnbull’s return to the Detroit Tigers’ starting rotation might be around the corner, but he won’t be taking Jose Urena’s spot.

Urena was thoroughly underwhelming in his first two starts this season but navigated through the Oakland A’s lineup on Friday with a biting sinker and a knee-buckling slider. Unfortunately, he got no offensive support as the Tigers were shut out for the first time this season, 3-0.

Urena pitched seven innings for the first time since May 27, 2019, when he held Washington to two runs as a member of the Miami Marlins.

If he had his way, he’d have extended the outing by another frame. He even lobbied manager AJ Hinch to no avail.

“Yeah, I asked him like, ‘Give me another one,’ ” Urena said.

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The Tigers would be thrilled if Urena gives them more of these performances. Urena, who signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract as a free agent in the offseason, walked nine batters in 7⅔ innings while taking losses against Minnesota and Cleveland.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Urena throws to an Oakland Athletics batter during the first inning in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, April 16, 2021.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Urena throws to an Oakland Athletics batter during the first inning in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, April 16, 2021.

He only issued two free passes on Friday, both in the A’s two-run fourth. He struck out a career-high eight batters in his 101st career start. The fact he has never had more speaks to the need of painting the corners and inducing weak contact.

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“Over the course of his career, he’s been a strike thrower,” Hinch said. “He attacks the strike zone with a pretty good slider and high-end velocity and he’s able to log innings because of that. We hadn’t seen a ton of that so far in the first couple of starts. So to see him come into the game pretty cleanly and be able to navigate his innings … it was vintage Jose Urena.”

Hinch and his coaching staff will soon have to decide whether to go with a six-man rotation or pinpoint the odd man out.

Turnbull tossed 4⅓ innings against Cincinnati’s alternate site squad in Toledo on Thursday, allowing two runs on five hits. There’s a “definite chance,” according to Hinch, that Turnbull will be activated from the COVID-19 injured list and start during the three-game home series against Pittsburgh early next week.

Matthew Boyd, Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, Michael Fulmer and Urena currently comprise the five-man staff with Julio Teheran on the 60-day IL.

“There’s plenty of games before we’re going to talk about that,” Hinch said of a potential six-man rotation. “It’s a possibility but we haven’t even met on it as a staff, so we’ll see.”

One thing Hinch has decided is rookie phenom Akil Baddoo needs a day to clear his head. Baddoo won’t be in the lineup Saturday after going 0-for-7 in the first two games of the series with six strikeouts.

“I don’t think anybody was expecting him to continue on that pace he was on,” Hinch said of Baddoo, who has four homers and a team-high 11 RBIs. “This is a pretty good pitching staff on the other side and a very smart organization. They’re going to seek out areas to try to get him out and they’ve been successful so far.”

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Jose Urena's great game leaves AJ Hinch with decision