Ugueth Urbina has always done things his own way—and that way is sometimes unusual. As the Marlins' closer during their 2003 championship run, Urbina, 30, memorably kissed his catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, after Game 1 of the World Series, one of two he saved against the Yankees. He requested a World Series ring that would fit on his thumb. Now he's off on his own again. After Florida didn't offer him a contract last fall, Urbina became a free agent. Not satisfied with the offers he has received, he spends his time living at the rented Tucson home of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, a longtime friend. "That's where he is every day," Guillen says. "At my house, eating with my lads."
Has a World Series closer turned into Ugie Poppins? His agent, Peter Greenberg, says Urbina, who has 206 career saves, took a pay cut from $6.7 million to $4.5 million in '03 and won't accept another. Meanwhile, the market for closers isn't strong. Boston gave Keith Foulke $25.5 million for four years, and Seattle signed Eddie Guardado to a three-year, $13 million deal. But other teams who need a stopper are being frugal. Defending AL Central champ Minnesota gave its job to Joe Nathan, who has one career save and makes $300,000; Florida replaced Urbina with Armando Benitez, who will earn $3.3 million. Says Greenberg, "Teams interested in him—the Twins, Pirates, Expos—just haven't had the money." (Urbina didn't help his marketability when he was involved in a January incident—for which he has not been charged—in which he allegedly fired a gun from a moving SUV in his native Venezuela.)
Opponents hit .204 off Urbina last year, and he converted 32 of 38 save opportunities. Plus he has the mind-set of a closer. "Guys like Urbina get the s—- kicked out of them, then say, "That's history? There's no carryover," says Marlins manager Jack McKeon. Greenberg is hopeful but says Urbina could play in Japan or retire. "Ugueth is just a tough guy," Greenberg says. "Friends have been calling, saying, 'Don't do this.' Ugueth is saying, 'I'm going to do what I want to do.' "