Two pitchers with Major League experience took the mound at Jupiter's Roger Dean Stadium on Monday night. But it was Jose Urena who emerged with the most impressive line.
The Marlins' No. 12 prospect allowed just one hit and one walk in six innings as the Class A Advanced Hammerheads blanked Bradenton, 5-0, in a game featuring rehabbing hurlers Francisco Liriano and Jose Contreras.
"That guy had everything working from the first pitch of the game," said Jupiter manager Andy Haines. "His fastball, his slider, his changeup, he was able to keep it all down in the zone and spot everything to both sides of the plate. He has such great control of the game that makes him so effective."
Urena's outing did get off to a bit of a comparatively slow start. The 21-year-old right-hander struck out Taylor Lewis to start the contest -- one of his four punchouts on the night -- but the Bradenton leadoff hitter reached first base on a wild pitch. He then walked Benji Gonzalez -- the pitcher's first free pass of the young season -- to put two runners on with nobody out.
That would be as close as the Marauders would come to scoring all evening.
Urena did not allow another baserunner to reach scoring position over his remaining six innings. He forced Jacob Stallings to ground into threat-concluding double plays in the first and fourth innings and didn't allow a hit until the fifth, when Dan Gamache bounced an infield single to short. The Dominican Republic native, who is known for his fastball that touched 94 on the gun Monday, finished by retiring the final six batters he faced in succession.
"I was trying to work on my changeup and slider a little bit, and they were really good for me," Urena said. "It feels great to have a start like that."
The right-hander's outing gave the Hammerheads a chance against two former All-Star hurlers, both in the Florida State League on rehab assignments.
Southpaw Francisco Liriano, who was making his first start in the Pirates organization after breaking his right arm last winter, struck out six in three perfect innings for Bradenton. Contreras gave up two runs on two hits, one walk and a hit batsman to take the loss in his first official outing since offseason elbow surgery,
"That guy, he's a big leaguer," Urena said of Liriano. "I knew it would be hard for the team to hit against him, so I tried to do what I can to help us win."
His skipper noticed a slight change in the pitcher as well.
"With Jose, you can always see just how competitive he is," Haines said. "But when you look over at the other side and see a couple of established pitchers, there's no doubt you're going to try to pick up your game a little bit. It was like that even for Jose, who looks very competitive every time he's out there."
The occasion marked Urena's first career win at the Class A Advanced level. He is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA, 12 strikeouts and just the one walk in his first three starts (13 2/3 innings). In the early going, the key once again for the right-hander has been his control.
He walked just 1.9 batters per nine innings last season for Class A Greesnboro, down from 3.6 a year earlier at short-season Jamestown. It's at 0.71 to start 2013, and Haines isn't surprised at all.
"For being such a hard thrower, Jose's still got very good command," said the Hammerheads manager. "He's not going to just scatter the zone. He's going to pound it and be very effective doing so. Listen, all of his pitches are Major League-type pitches. He just has to get the repetition down and learn how to use them as best he can. Still, he's on the right pace for where he needs to be."
Wilfredo Gimenez hit a two-run double off Contreras in the fifth. The right-handed catcher is just 4-for-32 but has doubled twice and drove in four to start the season.
Pirates' No. 4 prospect Gregory Polanco was 2-for-4 with a double for the Marauders.