Houston Chronicle

Urquidy proposes 200-inning season

Newly engaged righthande­r intent on being a mainstay in the rotation

- By Brent Zwerneman STAFF WRITER

Raising a knee is no big deal to Jose Urquidy. It’s his job as an Astros pitcher.

Dropping to a knee with a ring extended before spring training was quite another undertakin­g.

“Very nervous,” Urquidy said Sunday of getting engaged this month.

Urquidy, with nuptials now in his future, is healthy, happy and raring to raise his knee more than ever as a starter for the Astros.

“I’m very focused to throw more than 200 innings. I think I can do that,” he said. “I feel strong (enough) to do that.”

Such an abundant amount of knee lifts would be a blessing for the Astros, with ace Justin Verlander out for most, if not all, of the season following Tommy John surgery Sept. 30.

Urquidy, 25, has started a dozen games for the Astros during the past two regular seasons, throwing 702⁄3 innings in that span. He’s best known, however, for a sterling postseason appearance: a Game 4 victory over Washington in the 2019 World Series.

Urquidy allowed two hits in five scoreless innings that October night for the Astros in Washington, becoming the first Mexico native to win a World Series game since the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

Urquidy, on a rocket rise to the top two years ago, began the 2019 season at Class AA Corpus Christi and debuted with the Astros that July. He threw 41 innings in the regular season in 2019 and followed that up with only 292⁄3 innings during

last year’s pandemic-shortened season.

He tested positive for COVID-19 early last year and returned to the big leagues in early September — just in time for the 29-31 Astros’ improbable run to within one victory of the World Series.

Urquidy struggled in a Game 3 start against Oakland in the American League Division Series, allowing four solo home runs in 42⁄3 innings. He rebounded with a strong Game 3 against Tampa in the American League Championsh­ip Series but was hampered by second baseman Jose Altuve’s poor defense and took the loss.

This past offseason, in addition to a marriage proposal, Urquidy focused on dropping some pounds to help make that perpetual knee raise require less effort.

“I’m just trying to be healthy and trying to eat healthy and be in shape for spring training,” Urquidy said Sunday from West Palm Beach, Fla., following the fourth day of workouts for Astros pitchers and catchers. “I was in the gym and focused on gaining muscle.”

Urquidy, who’s listed on the reporting roster at 6foot and 217 pounds, said he dropped about 15 pounds in the process of limbering up.

“Health is the No. 1 thing for pitchers,” he said. “I’m just trying to be as healthy as possible.”

The Astros are carrying 39 pitchers in spring training, and pitching coach Brent Strom said he won’t be overwhelme­d by the numbers in figuring a rotation and a bullpen.

“We’ll get it sorted out,” Strom said.

Based on his brief but impressive big league showing to date, Urquidy should again be among the Astros’ five starters entering the season, joining Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier.

“I’m trying to work on and be consistent with all of my stuff,” Urquidy said of what he’ll be working on in particular in spring training. “To be consistent and try to make my (delivery) the same on all my pitches.”

Following his World Series victory in Game 4 over the Nationals in 2019, Urquidy became a celebrity back home in Mexico, particular­ly his hometown of Mazatlan.

Urquidy said he keeps in touch with city leaders in Mazatlan to continue to help grow the game in his home country.

He is proud, too, that Mexico will play for an Olympic medal for the first time at the 2021 Olympics this summer in Tokyo.

“It’s going to be really good for baseball in Mexico. It’s going to get the attention of a lot of important people in baseball in front offices around the league,” Urquidy said. “There are a lot of ballplayer­s who could be in (the big leagues) from Mexico. All they need is the opportunit­y to be successful.”

 ?? Karen Warren / Staff photograph­er ?? Astros righthande­r Jose Urquidy has started a dozen games during the past two regular seasons.
Karen Warren / Staff photograph­er Astros righthande­r Jose Urquidy has started a dozen games during the past two regular seasons.
 ?? Karen Warren / Staff photograph­er ?? Astros righthande­r Jose Urquidy had a busy offseason — he proposed to his girlfriend and shed 15 pounds to get into shape for spring training.
Karen Warren / Staff photograph­er Astros righthande­r Jose Urquidy had a busy offseason — he proposed to his girlfriend and shed 15 pounds to get into shape for spring training.

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