May 23, 2024

The mural is impossible to miss going southbound on Figueroa Street in Highland Park: Julio Urías in a white Dodgers uniform pumping his fists in celebration with the Mexican flag behind him.

The image depicts Urías’ reaction to recording the final out of the 2020 World Series. It’s painted on a wall of El Pescador, a Mexican restaurant, on the side facing oncoming traffic. He shares the canvas with Kobe Bryant. He’s there because he brought pride to the community. He was one of them representing on the grandest stage.

A mural that features Julio Urías and Kobe Bryant remains on a wall of El Pescador, a Mexican restaurant in Highland Park.

A mural that features Julio Urías and Kobe Bryant remains on a wall of El Pescador, a Mexican restaurant in Highland Park.

(Jorge Castillo / Los Angeles Times)

That changed last month when Urías was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence — four years after being arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic battery — and placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball. Though Urías has not been charged, his career as a Dodger probably ended that night. His time in the major leagues might have, too. He became a pariah, and El Pescador was left with a glaring piece of artwork.

An employee at the restaurant said that they don’t condone that behavior, but the cost of changing it is prohibitive for the business at the moment.

Ten minutes away at Dodger Stadium, where money isn’t an issue, Urías’ presence was expunged immediately. Murals were altered. His locker was emptied and given to Kolten Wong. He was removed from 2020 World Series highlights shown on the video board. The measures were taken to make it seem as if he never existed, as if he never rose from a teenage wunderkind prospect to staff ace.

But Urías’ absence will be felt Saturday when the Dodgers host the Arizona Diamondbacks for Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Urías, 27, was supposed to start on the mound for the home team to begin the march to another World Series. He would’ve been in the final stretch before reaching free agency and hitting the jackpot. The mariachi music would’ve boomed and the crowd would’ve rallied around the Dodgers’ biggest Mexican star since Fernando Valenzuela.

Instead, Clayton Kershaw, hindered shoulder and all, will take the ball. Unproven rookies and Lance Lynn, who led the majors in home runs allowed this season, will fill out the rest of a shaky playoff rotation. The Dodgers finished their 100-win campaign with a strong September without Urías. They’re still among the favorites to win the championship. But the rotation is an uneasy question mark hovering over them as they begin the postseason.

“We may have to approach it in a more unconventional way,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Wednesday. “But the arm talent and the depth that we have, we feel really good about.”

Urías was the Dodgers’ Game 1 starter a year ago. He logged five innings in a victory over the San Diego Padres. It was the Dodgers’ only win of the postseason. Entering this season, his impending free agency was one of the top story lines around the Dodgers. He wasn’t just a standout pitcher. He was a fan favorite. Would the Dodgers actually not re-sign him?

A mural featuring Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías is covered with a sheet at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 11, 2023.

A mural featuring Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías is covered with a sheet at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 11, 2023.

(Jack Harris / Los Angeles Times)

His previous standing in the city was evident in his final official community appearance with the Dodgers in late August when he showed up at a Jack in the Box in Inglewood with a line of fans wrapped around the building.

For an hour, he took a few orders at the register, handed out food at the drive-through window, and posed for photos in front of a Dodgers backdrop wearing his No. 7 jersey. Men and women, young and old, nearly all Latino, waited for their five seconds with the pitcher. They greeted him in English and Spanish.

Jesse Urías, unrelated, waited in line with his 9-year-old son, Miles, to meet the pitcher.

“We got everything of his, bro,” the father said. “Bobbleheads, you name it. Cards. Everyone here is all Hispanic, so obviously he means something to the culture here. Big time for our family. It’s cool my son got to see someone with that same kind of color skin as him. From the same kind of vibe as him. So it means a lot to us.”

Julian Aguilar, another 9-year-old boy, wore his baseball uniform and glasses similar to the ones Urías wears on the field. There was a woman in a Tomateros de Culiacán cap and a man in a Dodgers-themed Chalino Sánchez T-shirt that Urías complimented.

Brae Colorado came from Torrance. She grew up in the Mexican state of Tabasco. Her parents, avid Dodgers fans, live in Tijuana. Urías resonated with them.

“The pride of having a Mexican man representing us on the mound for the Dodgers is amazing,” Colorado said. “I adore what he does. The slurve” — Urías’ signature pitch — “is my favorite. I watch the Dodgers every freaking day. So it’s amazing to see in person and meet him and get to take a picture with him. It’s just something I will never forget.”

Five days later, Urías was arrested after attending an MLS game at BMO Stadium and released on $50,000 bail. The next day the Dodgers decided he wouldn’t travel with them to Miami. Two days after that, MLB placed Urías on paid administrative leave. Overnight, the beloved Dodger disappeared, leaving behind a hole in the team’s rotation and disappointment throughout the city.

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