Urena continues to impress with first homer

Urena continues to impress with first homer

TORONTO -- Teoscar Hernandez and Carlos Ramirez received most of the attention earlier this week, but they aren't the only Blue Jays callups to keep an eye on this September. Another rookie to watch is shortstop Richard Urena.

Urena has opened some eyes during his first week in the big leagues, and he drew more praise following Toronto's 5-4 loss to the Tigers on Friday night at Rogers Centre. The score wasn't ideal, but the Blue Jays did get to see their rookie shortstop hit the first big league homer of his career while also making several impressive plays in the field.

The 21-year-old Urena was a surprise addition to Toronto's lineup when rosters were expanded on Sept. 1. He's ranked the Blue Jays' 11th-best prospect by MLBPipeline.com, so it's not like he lacks pedigree. But he still lacks experience, and after a disappointing run this year with Double-A New Hampshire, a call wasn't necessarily expected. It still arrived, though, and now he's making the most of the opportunity.

Urena's nice defensive play

"You never like losing, and that still eats at you, but when you do see a game like he had, that does bring a smile to your face," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's an up-and-coming kid who we've always liked in the organization.

"Probably got here a little ahead of his time, but he has done a tremendous job and a big night tonight. First home run, did a nice job defensively. Showed some nice range and he has a good arm. That'll do wonders for him and his confidence."

Urena picked up the first hit of his career on Monday at Fenway Park, and on Friday in Toronto it was the first homer. The Dominican native worked the count full vs. reliever Alex Wilson in the eighth inning and then lifted a 92.7-mph fastball over the wall in left field for an opposite-field home run. According to Statcast™, the ball was projected to travel 362 feet and left his bat at 100 mph.

Blue Jays fans should not get used to watching that. Urena reached double digits in home runs just one time out of his five seasons in the Minors, and he was limited to eight at New Hampshire prior to his September promotion. With a slash line of .247/.286/.359, there is still plenty of work to be done at the plate.

What Toronto should expect is impressive range and athleticism up the middle, and that was on display Friday night. In the top of the ninth inning, Urena went almost directly behind second base to field a sharp ground ball and then turned to fire a strike to first base. That stole a hit away from Andrew Romine and provided a glimpse at Urena's skill set.

"I've been working four or five years in the Minors to get ready for this," Urena said through an interpreter after the game. "For me, I'm just happy to be here. I know it's going to be hard, but I was ready for this."

As for the home run, it landed in the Blue Jays' bullpen and was returned to him after the game. No matter how many he ends up hitting in the big leagues, that will be one he never forgets.

"I feel very proud and very emotional about getting that off my back," Urena said. "It's my third or fourth game in the big leagues so far, and it always feels good to hit the ball out."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.