Gio Urshela: The Best Bola Y Trapo — “Ball And Rag” Yankee

Gio Urshela, Yankees Mr. Clutch (Photo: The Athletic)
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Gio Urshela remains the glue holding the Yankees together. From Cartagena, Colombia to New York City, his is a baseball story like no other…

Gio Urshela learned how to field baseballs in self-defense while playing bolo y trapo, also known as ball and rag in his home country of Colombia. On infields mined with stones and rock-sized pebbles, he learned very quickly to catch the ball or be smashed in the face by the ball.

When the seasons changed in Cartagena, and it was time for futbol, the National Pastime in Colombia, Gio Urshela was first to be tabbed as the goalie because he could be counted on to catch the ball. So good was Gio, his dad wanted him to stick with soccer over baseball (The Athletic), but Gio chose baseball – and the rest as they say – is history.

2019 marks the eleventh year Gio Urshela has been playing professional baseball in America. Nearly all of those seasons were spent in the minor leagues playing mostly for teams affiliated with the Cleveland Indians. In almost 1200 minor league games, Urshela put up respectable, but not necessarily eye-catching numbers.

Two cups of coffee with the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays in 2015 and 2017, also produced nothing of note. Ultimately, Toronto gave up on Urshela on August 4, 2018, when they sent him to the New York Yankees in a cash deal. With Miguel Andujar firmly ensconced at third base, the Yankees sent Urshela to their Triple-A team where he finished out the 2018 season, batting .307 for the Railriders in 27 games.

On The Yankees Radar – Another Cashman Masterpiece

It is said the Yankees had long scouted Gio Urshela even back to his days in Colombia. They put a bid in for his services but the Indians made a better offer, closing the door on the Yankees for a decade.

Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees Photo Credit: New York Post
Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees Photo Credit: New York Post

To claim that Gio Urshela was on the Yankee’s radar during Spring Training of this year would be a stretch. Andujar, despite his defensive deficiencies, was locked in as a regular in the Yankee lineup. As so often happens, though, fate would intervene when Andujar came up with a shoulder issue and was remanded to the Injured List, allowing Urshela to step into the void.

It would be another stretch for anyone, except perhaps Urshela himself, to say they predicted what would happen over the next 32 games with the newcomer Urshela at third base and a regular in the Yankee lineup.

Ball and rag, beisbol, baseball – call it what you want – Gio Urshela is batting .341 with an OPS of .902 as a mainstay of the B-Bombers who are holding the team together while the A-Team struggles to return, and then stay on the field, from the Injured List. (Note: Andujar was placed on the IL yesterday with the same injury).

More than any stat worth looking at, Yankees fans following the team this season see the “clutch” in Urshela, that intangible or knack of producing runs when they are most needed. Nine times in twenty-three at-bats (40 percent of the time), Gio Urshela will get a base hit with runners in scoring position. Even better, with two out and runners in scoring position, Urshela is batting a cool .500.

Gio Urshela – How Long Will It Last?

More often than not, the axiom that states what goes up must come down holds true in baseball. The sheer length and grind of a major league season dictate that Cody Bellinger will not maintain his .402 batting average to become baseball’s first .400 hitter since Ted Williams, and Christian Yelich will not finish with the 64 home runs he is on pace to hit. Or, that Domingo German, at 7-1, will not finish with 28 wins this season.

One thing is certain, though. Yankees manager, Aaron Boone, will comfortably write Gio Urshela’s name in the lineup every day henceforth. The Yankees are being very quiet about the status of Miguel Andujar, and there is every chance they will decide on season-ending surgery for Andujar, with the confidence that Urshela is more than capable as a replacement.

It’s bonus time, is perhaps the best way to look at Gio Urshela. Whatever he provides will complement a team and a lineup in need of his skills. Together with DJ LeMahieu and Brett Gardner, Urshela does not give away at-bats, working the count, and coming up with that big hit.

Gio Urshela, Familia (Photo: eluniversal.com.co)
Gio Urshela, Familia (Photo: eluniversal.com.co)

Only 27, Urshela is just coming into his prime, and it is worthy to note the Yankees tipped their hand a bit by installing Andujar as the DH rather than at third base during his brief return from the IL. For reasons only they are privy to, the Yankees have never seen Andujar as a mainstay on their team.

Always on the trade block, Andujar upset the Yankee’s apple cart with the season he had last year. But now with the injuries and his ongoing woes defensively, and despite the hard work he puts in, the Yankees have their ace in the hole in Gio Urshela, should they decide to play that card.

And perhaps, by the end of this season and based on Urshela’s play, it won’t even be a question worth asking as the “Ball and Rag” man takes over for good…

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.

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