Fernandomania will run wild again at Dodger Stadium this summer, as the Dodgers officially announced that Fernando Valenzuela’s number #34 will be retired during the team’s series with the Rockies on August 11-13. While the #34 jersey hasn’t been issued to another Dodgers player since Valenzuela departed following the 1990 season, the number hadn’t been ceremonially taken out of circulation due to the club’s unofficial policy of only retiring the numbers of players who had been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Valenzuela’s 17-year Major League career began with 11 seasons with Los Angeles from 1980-90, and he posted a 3.31 ERA over his 2348 2/3 innings in Dodger Blue. After appearing in 10 games as a reliever in 1980, Valenzuela’s spectacular 1981 campaign made him the only player to ever win a Rookie of the Year Award and a Cy Young Award in the same season. The Mexico native was a fan favorite everywhere, but in particular became a hero amongst the Mexican-American population in Southern California. Valenzuela’s time in L.A. saw him achieve three more top-five finishes in NL Cy Young voting, make six All-Star appearances, and win two World Series titles in 1981 and 1988.
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- From one Mexican-born star pitcher to another, as Julio Urias is “100% focused on the field” as he heads into his final season before free agency. Urias told The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya and other reporters that his “representatives and [the Dodgers] will have their chance to talk,” but at the moment, “we have the WBC and then we have the season and so those are two things I’m focused on right now.” Between Urias’ track record and age (he’ll be 27 on Opening Day 2024), he projects to be one of the top free agents on the market next winter, and in line for a gigantic contract. The Dodgers are no strangers to paying big for premium talent, though clients of Urias’ agent Scott Boras generally end up testing the open market rather than signing extensions, so it remains to be seen whether or not the Dodgers can offer a big enough number to keep Urias in the fold.
- Most of Miguel Vargas’ experience in the minor leagues has come as a third baseman, but Los Angeles heads into the season planning to use Vargas mostly at second base, with Max Muncy instead manning the hot corner. The new rules limiting defensive shifts factored into the Dodgers’ decision, and GM Brandon Gomes also cited Vargas athleticism as a reason for his usage at this relatively (Vargas has played 28 games at second base in the minors) new position. “Vargas is our second- or third-fastest guy on the team, which is probably not appreciated at all,” Gomes told MLB.com’s Juan Toribio and other reporters. “So he’s also a good athlete. It’s more about getting him reps and getting his feel at second base. I think a combination of it all is really strong.” The Dodgers’ penchant for defensive flexibility means that Vargas and Muncy might change positions in some games, but Toribio writes that the team “rated Muncy very highly” as a third baseman last year. Public defensive metrics have traditionally been pretty split on Muncy’s work at either second or third base, though the new rules might indeed make third base the more logical spot for Muncy going forward.