Yuli has defied time and wear

ATLANTA – When he was known as Yulieski Gourriel and was burning the Cuban National Series and sweeping international tournaments, the infielder was recognized as the most brilliant player in his country, from a “real” Cuban baseball family and destined to be remembered as one of the best in its history.

However, when the one we now know as Yuli Gurriel and his brother Lourdes Jr. (outfielder for the Blue Jays now) defected in the Dominican Republic after the 2016 Caribbean Series held in Santo Domingo, no one knew what to expect from a 31-year-old. years, especially with the tendency of the baseball of the United States towards the valorization of the youth.

Now, almost six years after that, the response has been overwhelming. Gurriel knew how to adapt to the Major League level, learned a new position (first base) and has hit a solid pace, with an OPS of .804 and OPS + of 116 in his five and a half seasons in the majors.

On the one hand, Gurriel cleared up the doubt around the past 30-year production, to the point of winning a batting title in 2021 at 37. And on the other, after campaigns of about 80-90 games in the Series Nacional, the Sanctí Spíritus native has adapted to marathon Major League Baseball seasons, which in his case have included at least reaching the second round of the playoffs in each of his five full years in MLB.

“I am a person who takes great care of myself,” said Gurriel when talking about the adjustment to the most widespread campaigns. “I try to eat well healthy, to rest as much as possible, to be able to face a season as long as this one.

“The truth is that I thought it was much less than this. It is true that this is very strong ”.

Gurriel has risen to the challenge. This year’s American League batting champion at .319, the first baseman also reached his best figures in 2021 in on-base percentage, hits and OPS +. And playing through the end of October for the third time since 2017, he is hitting .455 with six RBIs in the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox and had three hits in his first eight World Series at-bats. Astros right now with the Braves.

“He takes great care of himself,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He takes care of his food, he does not drink and he does not go out partying. He may be of a certain age, but I think he is five or six years younger than that. “

Baker revealed that a couple of weeks ago, Gurriel confessed that he was a bit tired.

“I said, ‘Hey man, you have to let me tell you that and just pretend you’re not tired,'” Baker recounted. “So some of that is on your mind. It depends on how strong your mind is. “

The physical and mental exhaustion that Gurriel has been able to endure has been in the midst of learning the first pad to defense, to the point of being nominated for the third time this year for a Gold Glove in that position in the American League.

“Where I come from, it is said that the third will be the charm,” said Gurriel. “Hopefully this is the time I can win the (Gold) Glove.”

Of course, the award Gurriel wants the most right now is another World Series ring, after being the 2017 champion and falling in Game 7 of the Fall Classic with Houston two years ago.

“When I came (to the US), I never thought I was not even going to be in a World Series,” he said. “I just came to try to play in the best baseball in the world with the best, but I never imagined that I was going to be in a World Series and you see, three have passed.”


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Yuli has defied time and wear