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Jose Urquidy Takes A Giant Step Forward

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Righthander Jose Urquidy is ascending the system and adding his name to this growing list of Astros' upper-level pitching depth that also includes Forrest Whitley, J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin.

Urquidy, who changed his preferred name from Jose Luis Hernandez this season, was the Opening Day starter for Double-A Corpus Christi and earned a quick promotion to Triple-A Round Rock after 33 innings.

A 24-year-old Mexican righty signed in 2015, Urquidy was once known as solely a great pitchability guy before having Tommy John surgery in 2016. When he returned in 2018, he had a four-pitch mix and a fastball hovering between 89-92 mph and touching 93.

Four outings into the 2019 season, Urquidy was touching 97 mph. Recipients of Tommy John surgery often experience some sort of velocity increase upon their return, but not to the level Urquidy had demonstrated.

He struck out 40 and walked five in 33 Double-A innings before being promoted. Speaking in mid-May after Martin made his big league debut, general manager Jeff Luhnow lumped Urquidy along with the aforementioned names as candidates for the next promotion.

"It’s always hard to put a finger on what the mechanical changes are or if it’s just (him getting) physically stronger or something like that, but the coaches have been working on getting him to rotate better,” farm director Pete Putila said.

"I’m not completely surprised at what he’s done thus far, but the velo has been a very nice surprise. Now, he’s as legitimate of a major league starting pitching prospect as you can get.”

Lauded for his pitchability within the organization, Urquidy has a plus changeup and has recently progressed with a slider to complete a four-pitch mix.

"At this point, he’s checking all of the boxes,” Putila said. "He was sort of quietly doing that before, but everyone wants to see guys throwing 95, 6, 7 or 8.

"But him at 94 is still a very good pitcher, maybe just not a guy who's going to be lighting up prospect lists just because velo is easier to hedge on when people look at pitchers. Now, pitching (93-96), it’s a different ballgame.”

SPACE SHOTS

— Though Forrest Whitley's ERA sat at 10.48 after seven Triple-A Round Rock appearances, the Astros contended that the top prospect was still throwing top-end stuff. Reliance on fastballs, because he’s often behind in the count, is to blame for some of his struggles. Whitley had allowed seven home runs and walked 12 through 22.1 innings.

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