Considering his age, Julio Urias should be facing batters worried more about who they'll ask to homecoming than when they'll be promoted to Double-A. Instead, the conversations surrounding the Dodgers' 18-year-old phenom revolve around how quickly he'll rocket to the big leagues.
His 2014 regular season curtain call on Friday night won't do anything to quiet those conversations.
Los Angeles' No. 2 prospect turned in one more impressive effort in what could be his California League swan song, allowing one hit over five innings and retiring his final 13 batters as Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga blanked Lake Elsinore, 9-0.
"Tonight was the best fastball command that we have seen to date," Quakes manager P.J. Forbes said. "I think he only sprayed one fastball above the belt tonight, if I can remember correctly. Everything else was down at the knees, both sides of the plate, and both of his breaking balls were outstanding."
With the Dodgers closely monitoring the young left-hander's innings, Urias (2-2) completed five frames for the fourth straight start and only the fifth time all year. The only baserunner he allowed was Benji Gonzalez, who hit a two-out double in the bottom of the first. Urias responded by retiring the final 13 batters he faced.
"One of his special pitches is his changeup, and the only hit he gave up was a changeup that was up," Forbes said. "He really didn't need it tonight -- he was so effective in and out with his fastball and both his breaking balls. He was really, really good tonight."
The victory, Urias' first since May 21, put his scoreless streak at 15 1/3 innings to wrap up the regular season. Since July 4, he's allowed three earned runs over 36 1/3 innings in nine appearances, good for a 0.74 ERA. Over the final two months of the season, the native of Mexico struck out 57 batters while walking only 14. Opponents batted .194 against him in a league known for hitting.
"I've never had an 18-year-old that I've played with or managed with that kind of polish with four pitches," Forbes said. "You watch him throw a bullpen [session], it's special. You watch him attack hitters during a game, it's special. There's really not enough adjectives to explain or talk about his development this year because it just seems to continue to grow.
"From where he started in April, with his struggles through May, as he continued to get better until now, like tonight, he just made it look really, really easy."
Signed by the Dodgers at 16, Urias has been the youngest player in both the Midwest and California leagues in his first two professional seasons. He's still managed to make such a name for himself that the question of a promotion to the big club was pressed to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on Friday. While Mattingly seemed to quash the idea, Urias' tantalizing talent is front and center in the minds of many observers.
"I think [his finish to the season] says a great deal about his character and what he wants to be," Forbes said. "This kid is very focused, from his bullpens through his flat ground, everything he does.
"You talk to [pitching coach Matt] Herges or stand in on a bullpen and watch him, he's so meticulous. If he doesn't throw one ball where he wants to throw it, you can tell by his reaction that he's not happy with it. You can see what a perfectionist he is. You just don't expect that from a kid who really should be pitching as a senior in high school. You feel lucky to be able to run him out there every fifth day and continue to watch the growth and the maturity."
While Friday marked the final regular season appearance for Urias, the 2014 Futures Game participant may have helped extend his team's season. The victory, coupled with a High Desert loss, moved the Quakes into a tie for the South Division Wild Card berth with three games remaining.
Adam Law delivered an RBI single and Pratt Maynard capped Rancho Cucamonga's three-run fifth with a two-run single. The Quakes tacked on five runs in the eighth and ninth, capped by Kyle Farmer's two-run double.
Storm starter Bryan Rodriguez (8-9) took the loss after giving up three runs on six hits while striking out four over five innings.