Julio Urías prepared for his WBC second as Mexico’s baseball king

Julio Urías jogged off the diamond Friday, moments after Team Mexico took its workforce photograph at Chase Field, and held up the entrance of his white jersey the place Mexico was spelled out in purple.

“Se ve bonito, ¿no?” he requested.

Doesn’t it look fairly?

Urías has performed in a Mexico jersey earlier than. Many instances. He was invited to take part for nationwide groups all through his childhood, touring from his hometown Culiacán to star in varied worldwide tournaments. That stopped when he signed with the Dodgers as an adolescent practically 11 years in the past.

On Saturday, for the primary time since his youth, Urías, 26, will play for his nation once more when he takes the mound in opposition to Colombia in Mexico’s World Baseball Classic opener. He’ll step on the mound not simply as Mexico’s ace or a longtime star for one among Major League Baseball’s flagship franchises. Similar to Shohei Ohtani for Japan, Miguel Cabrera for Venezuela, and Mike Trout for the United States, Urías will take part on this match because the face of baseball in his nation.

“He’s the biggest ambassador we have right now,” Mexico supervisor Benji Gil mentioned. “He’s Fernando [Valenzuela]. He’s Vinny Castilla in the ‘90’s. He’s Adrian [Gonzalez] in the early 2000’s. He’s the face of baseball in Mexico.”

Last summer time, sitting at his locker at Dodger Stadium, Urías spoke glowingly about his workforce’s prospects. He went by the lineup, rotation and bullpen. He thought the membership had an actual likelihood to win all of it. He might’ve been speaking in regards to the Dodgers, however he was speaking about Mexico.

Read also  Pac-12 takeaways: Oregon retains NCAA Tournament hopes alive, UCLA up subsequent

It wasn’t official but, however Urías was dedicated to taking part in for Mexico within the WBC for the primary time. He wasn’t going to be denied. The Dodgers didn’t give him permission to play within the earlier WBC in 2017, which he publicly admitted bothered him, however he was nonetheless a prospect then. This time was completely different.

Urías was coming off a 20-win season in 2021 en path to main the National League in earned-run common and ending third within the Cy Young vote final yr. The harm issues, heightened after present process main shoulder surgical procedure in 2017, had been behind him.

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías warms up throughout a spring-training recreation in opposition to the Cincinnati Reds on Feb. 28.

(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

It didn’t matter that he’s slated to change into a free agent subsequent winter, making the 2023 season maybe a very powerful of his profession. Other pitchers have balked in related circumstances, afraid {that a} setback might value them hundreds of thousands of {dollars}. Urías is anticipated to be one of many high gamers within the upcoming free-agent class. A wealthy long-term contract is on the desk as a 27-year-old free agent — youthful than most. He was prepared to take the chance.

“I wanted to do this obviously first for my Mexican people who want to see me wearing a Mexico jersey,” Urías mentioned in Spanish final month. “I wanted to give them that. They’ve given me that support every day. It’s special.”

Rodrigo López, the colour analyst for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Spanish-language radio broadcast after pitching within the majors for 11 years, first spoke to Urías in regards to the potential Mexican workforce final season at Chase Field. López hadn’t been named basic supervisor but.

Read also  Manchester United's Erik ten Hag questions inconsistent VAR

They convened once more later within the season when the Dodgers returned to Arizona and López had been chosen to his submit. He recalled Urías talking with enthusiasm in regards to the workforce. He relayed that pleasure to different gamers he focused, letting them know Urías wished them to play to assemble the perfect workforce doable.

“That created a domino effect,” López mentioned. “And that’s what we’re seeing today.”

On paper, Urías will lead the deepest roster Mexico has constructed for a WBC. Established main leaguers José Urquidy, Taijuan Walker, and Patrick Sandoval of the Angels spherical out the rotation. Alex Verdugo, Randy Arozarena, Joey Meneses, Luis Urías and Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes headline the position-player crop.

Mexico is anticipated to advance from Pool C with the United States after the membership was eradicated by way of a controversial tiebreaker in 2017. The nation has by no means completed higher than sixth in 2006.

“I feel like everything is coming together the right way,” Urías mentioned.

A robust exhibiting would characterize one other step in Mexico baseball’s progress the way in which Urías’ rise from heralded prospect to delivering the ultimate pitch to finish the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series run marked one.

“He’s an icon,” López mentioned in Spanish. “I think, right now, baseball from Mexico can’t be identified without Julio.”

Castilla, Mexico’s bench coach, held that place atop the Mexico baseball hierarchy in the course of the prime of his 16-year major-league profession. The third baseman from Oaxaca took the mantle from Valenzuela, making two All-Star groups with the Colorado Rockies and clubbing 320 residence runs for six groups. He felt the strain that got here with the unofficial title.

Read also  Mac McClung commits to 2024 NBA dunk contest: 'I'll be again'

“Julio is the maximum representative, a man that has put Mexico’s name up high with the Dodgers,” Castilla mentioned in Spanish. “You have to applaud him for wanting to be here with us, for wanting to represent his country. I’m happy that Julio is here with us because it’s an inspiration for many.”

Gil mentioned he selected Urías to pitch Saturday — quite than saving him for Sunday’s sold-out recreation in opposition to the powerhouse United States workforce — with hopes that he’ll begin within the quarterfinals in Miami ought to Mexico advance previous pool play.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who starts, it’s going to be a difficult game,” Gil mentioned in regards to the matchup in opposition to the Americans. “So, why not start with our ace and start off on the right foot?”

WBC guidelines restrict pitchers to 65 pitches per outing in pool play. Those is perhaps the one ones Urías throws on this match. The face of Mexican baseball has been ready.