Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Julio Urías was named the Los Angeles Dodgers Opening Day starter for the 2023 season, which will be the first time the southpaw takes the ball in the first game.
The honor has typically belonged to Clayton Kershaw in recent seasons as the future Hall of Famer has started on Opening Day for nine of the past 12 years. The only other pitchers to start a season opener during that time are Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dustin May and Walker Buehler.
Ryu and May filled in for Kershaw because of injury, while Buehler was selected outright to start Opening Day in 2022.
Although Kershaw is still worthy of the honor, it was Urías who took over as staff ace last season and now gets the honor of making his first Opening Day start. The 26-year-old said he is grateful for the opportunity, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“Obviously it’s another accomplishment in my career, I’m very happy and thankful to the team for the opportunity,” Urias said in Spanish of his Opening Day assignment. “With the talent in our rotation, it’s an important role. That they’ve chosen me, I was really thankful and happy.”
Urías was MLB’s only 20-game winner in 2021 and he followed that up with another stellar performance that earned him a third-place finish in 2022 National League Cy Young Award voting.
He last season 17-7 to go along with a 2.16 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 0.96 WHIP and 166 strikeouts across 175 innings over 31 starts. The left-hander led the NL in ERA and ERA+ (194) and held opponents to a .199 batting average.
Urías was named the winner of the 2022 Warren Spahn Award, which is presented annually by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame to the best left-handed pitcher in baseball, and he received one vote for third place in NL MVP voting, giving him eight points and a 14th place finish.
Urías additionally earned All-MLB honors by being selected to the Second Team.
He also had the honor of representing Mexico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, where he suited up in his country’s red, green and white while helping them advance to the semifinals, where they ultimately lost to the eventual champion Team Japan.
Clayton Kershaw: Julio Urías deserves Opening Day start
Although Kershaw is healthy and could have made the start on Opening Day, he is happy with the Dodgers’ decision to go with Urías and believes his fellow southpaw earned the honor last season.
Kershaw made two trips to the injured list last year but still enjoyed an elite season that saw him post a 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with 137 strikeouts over 22 starts.
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