Baker treats Urquidy to a taste of home

Raley shakes off back tightness; Bregman gets day off

April 4th, 2021

If José Urquidy pitches well in his season debut in Oakland on Sunday (3:07 p.m. CT, free on MLB.TV), Astros manager Dusty Baker might have an alternative reason to tie to the pitcher’s success: a home-cooked meal -- sort of.

“I brought him some pozole this morning,” Baker said on Saturday. “So he’ll be strong tomorrow.”

The treats were courtesy of Otai restaurant in Oakland, which also provided burritos for the Astros the day before. Baker loves Mexican food and apparently loves sharing it with his Mexican-born players -- like Urquidy, who has been the beneficiary of Baker’s superb culinary taste dating back to last season.

“It’s something Dusty started doing last year,” Urquidy said through a team translator. “It’s a really nice gesture on his part. He’s a big fan of Mexican food and the Mexican culture. He’s brought me a lot of different Mexican foods and left it in my locker, each day -- tacos, pozole.”

Baker played in the Mexican League as a professional and has often said it’s the toughest league he’s ever been a part of. He appreciates the talent level that comes from the country, and that extends to Urquidy.

The 2020 season was somewhat of a lost one for Urquidy, a native of Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. He had a prolonged bout with COVID-19 and appeared in just five regular-season games. He started three postseason games and pitched out of the bullpen in a fourth, posting a 4.02 ERA.

Baker has high hopes for what a healthy Urquidy can do this year.

“I love Urquidy,” Baker said. “I mean, he can pitch.”

Prior to the Astros’ departure for Oakland, Urquidy threw a simulated game at Minute Maid Park, totaling around 50 pitches. He thinks he’ll be up for 70 to 80 in his season debut against the A’s.

“I feel really good and am ready to do a good job,” the right-hander said. “The climate is a little different here. It’s a little cooler, but it’s just a question of adapting and getting ready to be able to warm up a little longer to be ready to go. Physically, I feel really good.”

Raley strong despite back tightness
One day after he pitched through back tightness, recorded two crucial outs in the eighth inning and earned the save following a clean ninth in the Astros’ 9-1 win over the A’s on Saturday.

Prior to the game, Raley’s availability seemed uncertain. The left-handed reliever had first felt the back discomfort during his outing in the seventh inning on Friday. Raley walked Jed Lowrie and, at the behest of catcher , was checked on by Baker and head athletic trainer Jeremiah Randall. Raley stayed in the game, but he was removed after he allowed a two-run homer to Chad Pinder.

Baker said the next morning he wasn’t sure what the next move was.

But with Enoli Paredes struggling with his command Saturday, Baker turned to Raley to record the final two outs of the eighth with the bases loaded. Raley struck out pinch-hitter Lowrie before Pinder sent a long fly ball to center for the final out.

Before the game, Raley acknowledged the back issue but said he’ll be ready when called upon. That proved to be true a few hours later.

“I definitely feel like I have gotten over the hump, probably more this morning when I showed up,” Raley said. “I was like, ‘It’s time to get on the gas pedal.’ So I got off the mound this morning, threw 10-15 [pitches], went through my routine. They asked me to go for the ninth, and I didn't have any hesitation. I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I was glad to get back out there.”

Bregman rests
had a blistering two games to begin the season, but he was not in the starting lineup Saturday in Oakland. It was a planned day off for the third baseman, who dealt with right hamstring issues at times during Spring Training.

Bregman logged five RBIs in the first two games and hit a three-run homer off Jesús Luzardo in the Astros’ 9-5 win on Saturday.