Julio Urias spoke on a number of topics in this interview held at this week’s MLB Rookie Career Development Program near Washington D.C. For more on the program, see below.
— Jon Weisman
By Jon Weisman
Instead of a single Winter Development Program for minor leaguers this month, as they have had in recent years, the Dodgers will run three different smaller camps over the next three weeks.
“There’s room for us to do it a little more creatively this time and optimize for togetherness and development of our players, and also our staff members,” Dodger director of player development Gabe Kapler said.
By Cary Osborne
Baseball season has begun. Not just on fields in Arizona and Florida, but across the country. The months of February and March also usher in the start of baseball season for high school baseball. It had to start somewhere for these Major Leaguers and thanks to the Internet, we can find some cool glimpses of what these guys were like as prep baseball stars.
With that in mind, here are a few links to see what Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Joc Pederson looked like in a high school uniform. One particularly interesting one is Kershaw playing first base.
Back in 2012, I spoke with Kershaw and his high school baseball coach for a Dodgers Magazine story about the three-time Cy Young Award winner’s time at Highland Park High School, just outside of Dallas.
We highlighted one game, which lives on You Tube — Highland Park against Northwest High in the Texas High School 4A State Playoffs.
The almost five-minute YouTube short begins with Kershaw, wearing his pinstriped Highland Park High Scots uniform, warming up for the first 55 seconds. Then it’s nearly four minutes of rapid fire.
A count in the corner of the screen begins — batters faced and Ks. By the end of the video, each count ends on 15. That’s 15 batters and 15 strikeouts.
Kershaw struck out every batter he faced on May 19, 2006 in a 10-0 win against Northwest High in the Texas High School 4A State Playoffs. But he downplayed the performance.
“I guess that’s (the high school game) that gets the most recognition. But it was only a five-inning game,” Kershaw said. “I did hit a homer, too.”
Kershaw missed a couple of weeks of action leading into the game because of an oblique injury. He was making a push for the player draft, so he recalled knowing that he had to get on the mound to show scouts his stuff.
Kershaw returned for the Texas High School 4A State Playoffs. And he didn’t miss a beat.
“I just felt like he had great velocity that game and command and was always working ahead,” said his high school coach Lew Kennedy. “There’d been other games where people were just happy to foul the ball off and that landed in that category. But for it to be a playoff team and it was a pretty good team, he was special.”
Highland Park began to pile up runs on the offensive side, and the game was coming increasingly closer to being won by a 10-run rule. Kershaw showed no rust on the mound. Batters wailed away at pitches and came up empty each time.
“I’m thinking about other things during the game, and I don’t even wake up ’til early in the game to see that he’s not giving up anything and striking everybody out,” Kennedy said. “There’s mumbling in the stands and the bench and everybody’s starting to come around, but nothing was said. After the game we definitely mobbed him.”
Before Kershaw ever toed the rubber for Kennedy, the coach had heard of the young pitcher. Other kids told him about Kershaw in the fall of his freshman year. At that time, Kershaw was playing football, and he was a center on the Scots football team. Kennedy had someone point out Kershaw to him and he was shocked, expecting the kid that classmates were talking about to be a lean receiver or quarterback, not a lineman.
Then came baseball season, and Kennedy found out right away what he had.
“In a tournament, and I can’t remember the team we were playing, but it was in a tournament and he kept throwing fastballs by people, so I thought he must have some extra giddy-up on this thing,” Kennedy said. “When he started throwing the ball past good hitters you could tell he was going to be something.”
It was a sign of things to come.
By Jon Weisman
At times, I felt silly about tweeting out batter-by-batter updates on Julio Urias’ outing today, but it just felt to me like the combination of the level of interest and it being his first Cactus League outing as a grown-up justified them.
What I felt badly about was the short shrift given the other noteworthy prospects on the mound for the Dodgers today. Chris Anderson pitched two perfect innings, Zach Lee walked one batter but retired the other six and Chris Reed had a perfect inning before two singles, a wild pitch and a ground out spoiled his second frame.
Nonetheless, our minds were already in full orbit around Urias.
Urias did display a bit of “Aw, shucks” fallibility that on one level was a welcome antidote to those of us who might be getting carried away with our star-gazing, as if he were a celestial body from light-years away that had already blossomed, while we were just now getting our first glimpse. Facing seven batters, he walked three and went to a full count in an eight-pitch at-bat with another.
His first inning of work, following Lee to the mound, was fairly scintillating — two strikeouts sandwiching his first walk, followed by a harmless ground out (18 pitches in all). Coming back to the mound after a long rest (the Dodgers ate up a lot of time on offense in producing their 10-1 victory over Milwaukee), Urias took eight pitches to retire Carlos Gomez, then used another eight pitches in walking Aramis Ramirez.
(It’s here that we pause and remember, that’s an 18-year-old pitcher facing two 2014 National League All-Stars. Anyone else but Urias or Clayton Kershaw would have simply dug a hole on the mound.)
That put Urias at 34 pitches with four outs on his ledger, and a pitch-count limit was nigh. Urias staved it his departure — and showcased another exciting element of his game — by picking off pinch-runner Elian Herrera.
But after getting ahead of Khris Davis 1-2, Urias couldn’t finish him off. Davis fouled off two pitches and took three more, and that was that.
Part of me couldn’t help but wonder, “Shoot, if the guy can throw 42 pitches on March 6, couldn’t he throw 21 on August 6?” My takeaway, however, was that whatever was meant to be for Urias in a Major League uniform would all come in due time.
And flying under the radar, despite their own impressive pedigrees, Anderson, Lee and Reed should have their chances to romance us.
* * *
Reporters naturally sought out Urias for comment afterward, and it was nice to see his enthusiastic reaction.
“It was awesome to face (Gomez) and get an out against him (on a popup) at this early stage,” Urias told MLB.com’s Lyle Spencer, who noted that the pitcher’s father, grandfather and brother were watching. “I felt good, comfortable.”
Also weighing in was the man himself, Fernando Valenzuela.
“He was relaxed, nice and loose,” Valenzuela said, via Spencer. “He’s got a lot of confidence in himself. He has a good fastball with life and throws a nice curveball and changeup. He got ahead (in counts), but they didn’t chase. He looks like he can be something special.”
A.J. Ellis put the outing in perspective, in Eric Stephen’s writeup at True Blue L.A.
“He looked like a guy making his first start of spring training. A little bit erratic, a little bit anxious,” Ellis said. “When you’re erratic and anxious, but still have electric stuff, you can get away with a lot of things. We saw a little bit of everything.”
* * *
It was also another fine day for the Dodger bats, mainly against the Brewers but also in their 7-4 split-squad victory over the Mariners.
In support of Lee, Urias, Reed and Associates, Ellis had a walk and a three-run home run, Yasiel Puig had a single and two walks. Joc Pederson and Alex Guerrero each went 2 for 3 with an extra-base hit (double for Pederson, home run for Guerrero) to keep them a matched set with .714 batting averages this month.
“There is a very short window to make the team,” Guerrero told Stephen. “I’ve prepared a lot in the offseason, so I have to jump right in with a short time to prove myself. Mentally I’m confident, I’m relaxed, so that’s a difference too.”
Scott Schebler had two doubles, and Kyle Jensen followed up Thursday’s home run with two singles today. Darnell Sweeney got in the act, hitting a single and the Dodgers’ third home run off Milwaukee pitching. The Dodgers had 22 baserunners in that game, while Milwaukee ended up with a runs-hits-errors linescore of 1 2 3.
Joey Curletta ended the rout with a diving catch in right field.
Back at Camelback, O’Koyea Dickson hit his second home run of Spring Training, after Adrian Gonzalez went 1 for 2 at first base. Erisbel Arruebarrena had two hits, after Jimmy Rollins went 1 for 2 at short. Howie Kendrick, Andre Ethier and Shawn Zarraga gave the Dodgers a total of six 1-for-2 batters in the game.
By Cary Osborne
When Baseball America revealed its list of the top 100 prospects of the game on Thursday, three Dodgers ranked in the top 10. Shortstop Corey Seager was at No. 5, center fielder Joc Pederson took No. 8 and left-handed pitcher Julio Urias was at 10 (2014 first-round pick and right-handed pitcher Grant Holmes was at No. 74). This marked the first time in the 25 years that Baseball America has done a Top 100 Prospects list that the Dodgers had three of their own in the top 10.
Baseball America listed the entire history of its top 100 prospects, which gives us the opportunity to reflect. Here are some interesting notes that pop out:
In this video, hear Gabe Kapler talk more about the Dodgers’ developmental focus to MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds (with this Dodger Insider article as a launching point) and then detail the difference between my hometown of Woodland Hills and his hometown of Reseda.
Ken Gurnick also has a piece on the process at MLB.com.
— Jon Weisman
By Jon Weisman
What’s happening at Dodger Stadium this week is bigger and more exciting than you realize.