We heard earlier this week that former MLB reliever Ugueth Urbina was released from prison after serving a little over half of his 14-year sentence for the attempted murder of five workers on his family’s ranch in his native Venezuela. Now he’s ready to embark on an unlikely comeback attempt.
In a story that was published on the website for the Caracas Lions, a Venezuelan Winter League team, Urbina threw a bullpen session yesterday and expressed hope to pitch for the club soon.
“The idea is to return this year. The mechanics are not very good, but that’s normal. The important thing is that my arm is healthy.”
According to the Associated Press, Urbina aims to professionally in the United States again, but said his “first order of business is pitching in Venezuela.” We can probably file his comeback under “never say never,” but one wonders if he could have trouble obtaining a visa to come to the United States after his legal issues.
Urbina posted a 3.45 ERA and 237 saves from 1995 through 2005, making stops with the Expos, Red Sox, Rangers, Marlins, Tigers and Phillies. He was 31 at the time of his incarceration and will turn 39 in February.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.