Gio Urshela Is Creating Magic, and a Logjam at Third Base, for the Yankees

Talk to any Yankee participant today — particularly their pitchers — and they’re more likely to begin raving about Gio Urshela, the newcomer who was summoned as an emergency call-up however has was a magic-maker at third base.

Soft palms at third? Fast-twitch reflexes? A heavy-duty bat? Not solely does Urshela verify each field, however whereas the Yankees have been propping him up as a potential Gold Glove candidate, he has formally develop into a distinction maker in the ninth inning, too.

Urshela blasted a game-tying, two-run residence run earlier than the Yankees completed off a 5-Four come-from-behind victory towards the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night time.

“I was really excited in that moment,” Urshela mentioned, including that he loved the customary celebration of sunshine on the rim of Yankee Stadium. “It feels so good seeing the lights go back and forth.”

Manager Aaron Boone might solely shake his head and say, “That was really fun to watch.”

Urshela was behind Zero-2 in the depend towards Anthony Swarzak, however squared up on a middle-of-the-plate fastball that carried nicely over the center-field wall. Little identified till currently, Urshela raised a fist to the sky as he circled the bases — and was promptly mobbed in the dugout.

The Yankees repeated that scene moments later when D.J. LeMahieu punched a game-winning single via the infield, giving them their 13th victory in 17 video games.

Oddly, Urshela’s 11th-hour drama overshadowed a so-so efficiency in the area. His fielding error in the eighth inning led to 2 unearned runs that gave Seattle a Four-1 lead. Yet that did little to decrease Urshela’s rising popularity for defensive wizardry.

“I actually feel sorry for guys who hit the ball in Gio’s direction, because they have no shot of getting it by him,” mentioned outfielder Clint Frazier. “He’s just unreal.”

Urshela’s emergence has created a nice downside for the Yankees, as they now have two succesful third baseman in him and Miguel Andujar, who returned over the weekend after sustaining a labrum tear. Andujar began Tuesday night time’s recreation towards the Seattle Mariners as the designated hitter, a slot he figures to fill for a whereas, with Urshela at third.

It took Andujar’s damage to create roster area for Urshela, however the 27-year-old’s path to a spot in the Bronx was solid years earlier in his native Colombia. Growing up in Cartagena, Urshela was like most of his younger friends: He cherished soccer and was a fan of the Portuguese celebrity Cristiano Ronaldo.

Urshela was a goalkeeper as a child — “I had a great hands,” he mentioned with a grin — however a love of baseball ran via the household. Both of Urshela’s brothers performed in highschool, as did their father, a softball aficionado.

There have been few countrymen in Colombia to root for; solely 21 gamers from that nation have made it to the majors, together with Urshela. Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera have been the most distinguished throughout Urshela’s youth.

But regardless of a nationwide fixation on soccer, Urshela grew up listening to loads about the Yankees.

“For a country that doesn’t have a lot of baseball, you’d be surprised how many Colombians love this team,” Urshela mentioned. “There are Yankees fans everywhere.”

Thus, judgment day, when Urshela’s father instructed him it was time to choose a sport, the teenager knew his goalkeeping days have been over.

“He said, ‘I want you to concentrate on soccer,’” Urshela mentioned, referring to his dad. “I said, ‘No.’”

He laughed and added, “I think I made the right choice.”

These days Urshela is fielding regular requests for interviews, though the consideration goes past the clubhouse. The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, personally tweeted his praise for Urshela after a particularly good day at Yankee Stadium: a double and two singles in the Yankees’ 9-2 win over the Royals on April 20.

Urshela, who was batting .352 in 71 at-bats entering Tuesday, insists he’s not entirely surprised by the success. “I’ve always believed my hard work would pay off,” he said. Still, the journey has been circuitous. He was out of minor-league options when the Cleveland Indians finally released him last year. Their roster was full and Urshela’s path was being blocked by Jose Ramirez, their current third baseman.

Urshela landed with the Toronto Blue Jays but remained on the Yankees’ radar.

“We’d always had interest in Gio, we recognized his elite defense,” said General Manager Brian Cashman. “The question was: Could we match up with Cleveland to make something happen? The answer was we couldn’t. But we kept an eye on him.”

The Yankees ended up purchasing Urshela from Toronto last August, but didn’t protect him on the 40-man roster. In parts of three seasons with the Indians and Blue Jays, Urshela batted only .225 with a meager .589 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He was developing a reputation as an offensively-challenged, career minor leaguer — until late last season.

Urshela batted .307 with an .815 O.P.S. in 27 games for the Yankees’ Class-AAA affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He demonstrated similar bat-skills in spring training, at which point Manager Aaron Boone pulled Cashman aside and suggested it was time to make room for Urshela.

Only, where? The Yankees were fully invested in Andujar, the runner-up for the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award last season. Just as it was in Cleveland, Urshela appeared to be stuck, but the calculus changed after Andujar suffered a partially torn labrum and spent the next month on the injured list.

That prompted the call-up that has launched Urshela’s career in pinstripes. It was Frazier, who played with Urshela in the Indians’ farm system and who has also seized an opportunity brought about by injuries this year, who said, “This guy is a Gold Glove third baseman. I knew it back then, just watching. He belongs here, man.”

No one is arguing the point, least of all Boone, who said Urshela’s glove compares favorably with those of defensive stars like Oakland’s Matt Chapman, Colorado’s Nolan Arenado and San Diego’s Manny Machado.

The manager wouldn’t insert himself into the Gold Glove debate. First, he has to figure out how, or if, he can keep Urshela and Andujar in the same lineup. For now, Andujar will serve as the primary designated hitter, at least until Giancarlo Stanton recovers from a shoulder injury.

Urshela said he was “so grateful” for the opportunity that fate has given him, although none of it would have been possible without a critical choice on his part. It’s called picking the right horse — or, in Urshela’s case, picking the right sport.

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