Former Expos, Red Sox [and a bunch of other teams’] reliever Ugueth Urbina has been indisposed for several years. Which is what happens when you attack several men with a machete and then try to douse them with gasoline. He was sentenced to 14 years in a Venezulean prison, serving a bit under six, before being released in December of last year.
Last night he returned to the mound for the Caracas Lions, pitching a scoreless sixth inning, striking out one and walking one. Here’s the box score. Here’s the game story. The gamer is in Spanish, which is awesome in Google translate if, for no other reason, than “seasons” gets translates to “harvests.” Also: I learned that “slugfest” is “el festival de batazos” in Spanish, and that’s just an utterly fantastic phrase.
The story says Urbina had not pitched in Venezuela since the winter of 2000-01, which roughly corresponds with the point in his career where you’d expect a major leaguer of his stature to no longer play winter ball. Either way, this appears to be Urbina’s first actual baseball game since he finished the 2005 season with the Phillies.
He’ll turn 40 in February. No idea what his plans are, but it’d take the most improbable comeback in baseball history if he wanted to pitch in the bigs again.
Blue Jays closer Ken Giles hasn’t exactly turned things around since joining the Blue Jays on July 31, when the club sent embattled closer Roberto Osuna to the Astros. Giles posted a 4.99 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with the Astros, then put up a slightly less miserable 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings with the Jays. Still, he’s much happier with the Jays than he was with the Astros, even after winning the World Series with them last year. He said to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston. It’s kind of weird to say that because I won a World Series with that team. But it’s like, I just felt trapped there. I didn’t feel like myself there. Overall, I felt out of place.”
Giles also said “the communication was lost” with the Astros and it was something that came easy with the Jays. He said, “When I came here, they stayed patient with me. I said hey, I want to work on this thing till I’m comfortable. All right. OK, I’m comfortable, let’s move on to this next thing. Pitching, you can’t just try to fix everything at once. For me, I had to take baby steps to get my groove back. The Jays allowed me to do that. Yeah, the team was out of contention, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still my career. I still have to prove myself. Them being so patient with me, understanding what I want to do, was very, very big.”
Giles, 28, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining. He has shown promise despite his overall mediocre numbers. In non-save situations this season (with both the Astros and Jays), he has a 9.12 ERA. But in save situations, his ERA is a pristine 0.38. Giles could be a closer the Jays find themselves leaning on as they attempt to get back into competitive shape. Since it sounds like Giles is quite enamored with Toronto and with the Blue Jays, a discussion about a contract extension certainly could be had.