When the Los Angeles Dodgers take the field at Dodger Stadium to face the Chicago Cubs in Game Four of their National League Championship Series, L.A. will be counting on the youngest pitcher ever to take the mound in a postseason game for the storied franchise — a franchise with a history dating back to its days in Brooklyn starting in the 19th century.
Here’s what you need to know about the 20-year-old pitching sensation.
1. Dodgers Scouts Saw Him Throw a 92 mph Fastball at Age 15
Urias, a native of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico was spotted pitching at a scouting showcase in Mexico when he was just 15 years old. But when they saw the teenage lefty throw a fastball at 92 miles per hour despite his tender years, Dodgers scouts Logan White and Mike Brito took notice.
“When I saw this kid, I said, ‘My goodness, he has really got a chance to be something special,'” White told MLB.com.
Under Major League Baseball rules, however, Urias was still to young to sign a big league contract. But in 2013, shortly after he turned 16, Brito inked Urias to a Dodgers deal. In just over three full minor league seasons, Urias struck out an incredible 313 batters in 267 1/3 innings, posting a minor league career ERA of 2.66.
Urias made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on May 27 of this season, at age 19. His fastball this season averaged 93.3 miles per hour.
2. He Struggled Early, But Hit His Stride as 2016 Went On
Urias had a rough outing in his first Major League start, where he was thrown into a tough situation pitching against the then-defending NL Champion New York Mets at Citi Field in New York. The teenager lasted just 2 2/3 innings allowing five hits and four walks for three runs, taking a no-decsion in what turned out to be 6-5 Mets win.
But Urias, who turned 20 on August 12, seemed to improve over his next three starts and finally hit his stride in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium on June 17, pitching five shutout innings.
By the end of the regular season, Urias had compiled a 5-2 record with a solid 3.36 ERA over 18 games — 15 starts and three relief appearances — while striking out 84 against 31 walks in 77 innings pitched.
3. He is the Youngest Pitcher Ever to Start a Postseason Game
Taking the mound on Wednesday, October 19 to pitch against the Cubs, Urias will be 20 years and 68 days old — 107 days younger than now-retired Kansas City Royals star Bret Saberhagen was when he started Game Two of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers on October 3, 1984.
Though the Royals lost that game in 11 innings, Urias and the Dodgers will be thrilled if he can equal Saberhagen’s performance in that game when the Royals’ righty lasted eight innings allowing just three runs — two earned — on six hits.
Urias will become the fourth-youngest pitcher ever to appear in a postseason game —though the top three all came on in relief — after the Boston Red Sox’ Ken Brett who appeared in two 1967 World Series games at age 19; along with the Minnesota Twins Bert Blyleven who was also 19 in the 1970 ALCS; and the Cincinnati Reds Don Gullet who appeared in two NLCS and three World Series games in 1970 at 19 years old.
The youngest Dodgers pitcher ever to appear in a postseason game before Urias was franchise legend Don Drysdale, who pitched a 1956 World Series game for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the New York Yankees in 1956 at age 20 years, 76 days.
4. He had Cosmetic Surgery to Repair A Defect in his Left Eye
Urias was born with a defect in his left eye, causing a benign tumor to grow there and forcing his left eye nearly closed throughout most of his childhood. The condition required three surgeries for Urias as a child and left him with what appeared to be a permanently droopy left eyelid.
“That’s how God works,” Urias told The Los Angeles Times through a translator last year. “He gave me a bad left eye but a good left arm.”
But on May 28 of 2015, Urias had a surgical procedure called peri orbital benign mass removal, which removed the growth from his eye and relieve his eyelid of as much droopiness as possible.
The procedure sidelined Urias, then already considered the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, for a month.
“He deserves this level of support and we are thrilled to give it to him,” Dodgers Player Development Director Gabe Kapler said at the time, adding that the eye condition, “never limited his ability to make pitches.”
5. He is Already the Youngest Pitcher to Win in the Postseason
On October 13, in the pressure-packed Game Five of the NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals, Urias came on to pitch in relief in the fifth inning.
With the Dodgers trailing 1-0, Urias held the NL East Division winners to just one hit over two shutout innings — though he did walk a pair and fan only one. Nonetheless, when the Dodgers came back with four runs in the top of the seventh and held on to win the game and the series, Urias was credited with the victory, making him the youngest pitcher ever to record a win in a Major League postseason game.