Most seventeen-year-old ball players worry about whether they will make the varsity nine or not. Julio Urias strives to start on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Mexican teenager threw nine strikes in fourteen pitches in the first inning of a split-squad Dodgers victory over the San Diego Padres yesterday. Urias struck out two batters on route to a perfect inning. He allegedly clocks in at 98 miles-per-hour.
The Dodgers signed Urias on his sixteenth birthday. Unfortunately, most of his $450,000 sweet-sixteen present went to the Mexican club that had employed him. Urias compiled a 2-0 record with a 2.48 earned-run average in single-A ball last season. Baseball Prospectus ranks him at 35 among MLB wannabes. Urias expects to pitch in the big leagues in 2014. The Dodgers, who limited his innings to 54 1/3 last season, may have other ideas.
Stats nerds, of which baseball boasts many, go back a half century to find a pitcher so young entering a major league game. On his eighteenth birthday, Larry Dierker struck out Willie Mays in his first appearance in the majors. How long ago was that? He played for the Houston Colt .45s.
Just how young is the Dodger phenom? I would consult with Beloit College’s famous Mindset List but he’s too young for their latest entry for the class of 2017. Kerri Strug won Olympic gold, the Boston Garden had hosted its last sporting event, O.J. took his ride in the white Bronco, and baseball endured its last labor stoppage all before Urias entered into our world. As the Mindset List says of college freshman a year older, “Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing,” “Captain Janeway has always taken the USS Voyager where no woman or man has ever gone before,” “They have known only two presidents,” and “they may well have seen Chicken Run but probably never got chicken pox.”
Jamey Wright may want to keep all that in mind before he enters into a conversation with Urias. Should the seventeen-year-old pitch for the Dodgers this season, he might find a fatherly influence in fellow pitcher Wright. One month before Urias’s birth, Wright made his major-league debut for the Colorado Rockies. Wright allowed just one run in six innings pitched. He didn’t earn his first win until later that month when he lasted seven innings against the Giants. Eighteen days later, Julio Urias was born.
Fernando Valenzuela, still precariously clinging to a pitching career at the time of Urias’s birth, made his first start in Dodger blue as a teenager. In his 1981 rookie season, he helped the Dodgers defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series. So, the Los Angeles Times naturally reached out to the retired Mexican pitcher to get his sense of the fledgling Mexican pitcher. “It’s hard to say we’re the same,” Valenzuela told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t even remember what I was like at that age. But I can tell you he’s a gamer. He likes to pitch. That’s the main thing. He likes the game, he likes to challenge the hitters.”
The Times naturally asked Urias about Venezuela, too. Did his father tell him about Fernando? “My grandfather did.”