The father of Julio Urías drove 13 hours overnight from his home in the Mexican state of Sinaloa to Phoenix to see his 18-year-old son make his spring-training debut, a 1 2/3-inning scoreless appearance for the Dodgers in March 2015.
So one can imagine how agonizing it will be for Carlos Urías to not be at Globe Life Field on Saturday night when Julio, now a 24-year-old Dodgers left-hander, makes the biggest start of his life in Game 4 of the World Series against Tampa Bay.
“My dad, he’s a baseball addict. We’re always in contact,” Urías said in Spanish before Game 3 on Friday night. “I got advice from him. He’s the coach who knows me best. He knows when I’m right, when I’m wrong, and really to remember those good moments we had together, him as my coach, me as his player.”
Urías said none of his family members or friends in Mexico were able to travel to Texas for the World Series. “Right now, I’m by myself,” he said.
He is not alone in spirit. Urías said family members and friends in Mexico are “watching every day, sending us good vibes,” and that he can feel their support.
“When I was able to talk to my dad [Thursday] night and hear the messages from people I know who have been with me since I was young, who were close to me, watching me play, it’s motivation,” Urías said. “It’s a good way to go out [Saturday] and give 100% of myself.”
Urías has been one of the Dodgers’ best pitchers in the postseason, going 4-0 with an 0.56 earned-run average in four games, one start, striking out 16, walking three and limiting opponents to a .366 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
After throwing five one-run innings and a career-high 101 pitches in a 15-3 win over Atlanta in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Urías came back on three days’ rest to nail down the final nine outs of an NLCS-clinching 4-3 Game 7 win over the Braves on Sunday night.
“I’ve always known the potential Julio has,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “The demeanor he has and the temperament. I thought he's kind of made for this kind of baseball. He's not scared, that’s for sure. We love when Julio is out there. He's making big pitches, throwing some big innings.”
Urías made three relief appearances in the 2018 World Series against Boston, but this will be his first Series start.
“The plan, the routine, is a little different,” Urías said of knowing when he would pitch. “You can think deeper and have a better understanding of what you need to do. But I like both roles, starting and relieving. I have a little experience in both now, so I’m happy to get another opportunity.”
The Game 4 start would allow Urías to pitch in relief on three days’ rest in a potential Game 7 on Wednesday, just like he did in the NLCS, or possibly on two days’ rest in a potential Game 6.
The Dodgers would not have made such demands in the first four years of his career. Urías was eased into the big leagues as a teenager in 2016 and his appearances, innings and pitch counts were closely monitored for a full year after he returned from major shoulder surgery in 2018.
But manager Dave Roberts said the Dodgers have removed the “kid gloves” in their handling of Urías, who sometimes chafed under the team’s strict workloads but rarely complained.
“I think you can debate whether we were too careful with him or didn’t push him enough, but I appreciate, as the manager, that Julio is gonna have a great career,” Roberts said. “And I do think the foundation of taking care of him in his early years … is a part of it. That's not easy for an organization to do. I appreciate that he understands that whatever we did was best for him and his career.”
Therein lies the snub
Houston manager Dusty Baker was so impressed with the Rays’ defense during the seven-game American League Championship Series that he said, “You could probably see nine Gold Gloves on that defense now.”
This year, they will have none. When Rawlings announced its Gold Glove finalists Thursday, not one Rays player was among the three leading candidates at any AL position.
The most shocking omission was Kevin Kiermaier, a three-time Gold Glove and one-time Platinum Glove winner who has been one of the game’s best defensive center fielders for seven years.
“My first reaction was very surprised,” Kiermaier said. “And once that emotion left me, I was disappointed, I was upset. I feel like what I did out there defensively was underappreciated this year. I wasn’t flawless by any means, but I thought I was darn good, and to not be considered top three … I don’t know.”
Said Rays manager Kevin Cash: “I get to see K.K. play every night. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best defensive player on whatever field he’s on.”
Managers and coaches usually vote on the awards, but with the pandemic-shortened 60-game season limiting teams to games in their region, Rawlings decided to rely solely on the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) Defensive Index, which aggregates defensive metrics from batted-ball location data and play-by-play accounts.
“I don’t know what numbers that computer was looking at, but I believe they got it wrong,” Kiermaier said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset about it, but I have a lot better things going on right now — playing in the World Series. I’ll be OK.”
Diego Castillo, the Rays closer who grew up in Cabrera, Dominican Republic, was asked whether he had any favorite memories of the World Series as a youngster.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch many games because we didn’t have a TV,” Castillo, 26, said. “But I’ve loved baseball since I was a kid. When Boston was in the World Series with Pedro Martinez and all those other players [David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez] from the Dominican, it really inspired me to want to get there.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.