Unless you live under a rock somewhere in the vicinity of Timbuktu, you’ve probably heard of Julio Urias, the 19-year-old pitching sensation who belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers. You’re also likely to be aware that the long-anticipated MLB debut of the Mexican lefty fell well below expectations. Under the circumstances, though, it wasn’t really a shocker.
Fans from coast to coast watched on national television as Julio Urias scuffled against the New York Mets, coughing up five hits and three runs in just 2.2 innings. Then again, it was slightly nuts to have the teen baptized in fire under the bright lights of the Big Apple. Come on, man. Are you kidding me?
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Urias told a gang of reporters through a team interpreter. “I was a little nervous.”
No translation needed. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
Look, I know the Dodgers have had some pitching issues of late. The injuries have mounted and with the exception of rotation ace Clayton Kershaw, nobody has stepped it up with any consistency. As a result, the bullpen has housed a group of tired arms only two months into the season. There’s no question that Urias has the credentials to be a potential superstar, and the youngster has been slowly cultivated on the farm. That’s why asking him to open up an important series in New York City was not a good idea. Yet, Julio took his mugging like a man.
“I just need to talk to my pitching coach and my catcher,” he noted. “It was my first time out and I know they wanted the best for me.”
Obviously, that was a very diplomatic way for Urias to hint that he didn’t quite agree with the game plan. The teen threw a total of 81 pitches against the Mets, of which 57 of the offerings were fastballs. I saw Urias pitch on a couple of occasions with Oklahoma City this spring, and he had amazing command of a change-up and a filthy curve ball to complement a 97 mph heater. Against the defending NL champions, however, the velocity was down and up in the zone. What’s puzzling is why Urias didn’t mix it up a bit with his quality repertoire of bullets. Julio’s Cuban-born catcher, Yasmani Grandal, kept calling for gas as instructed from the dugout, and the Mets were teeing off.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers have now decided to send Urias back to the minors to make a few starts, even though there’s nothing more to be accomplished. Before being promoted, Urias had an ERA of 1.10 with 44 strikeouts in 41 innings and had pitched 27 consecutive scoreless frames. In my opinion, this kid would be better served to stay on the big club, make a few relief appearances and regain his confidence. It would also give pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and first-year manager Dave Roberts an opportunity monitor Urias on a daily basis and fine-tune his arsenal. It would be a learning experience for all parties involved.
Whatever the Dodgers do with Julio Urias is their business. But I can assure the Los Angeles faithful that this young man is the real deal. No worries, folks. I’m just hoping that when Urias makes his next appearance in a Dodger uniform, the venue will be in Chavez Ravine. It will be like Fernandomainia and as Yogi might have said, deja vu all over again.