September 03, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) The call that Jose De Leon has been waiting for all season finally came.

The 24-year-old pitcher will make his big-league debut on Sunday for the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Diego Padres.

De Leon was 7-1 with a 2.61 ERA in 16 starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City while limiting opposing batters to a .194 average. He struck out 111 batters against just 20 walks this season.

After getting the news, De Leon shared it with his parents, who quickly made plans to arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

''They were really happy,'' he said. ''They were crying and jumping all over the place. It still hasn't hit me.''

With the Dodgers' rotation plagued by injuries, De Leon couldn't help but wonder when his turn would come to join the big-league club. He watched as four other rookies were brought up, including Julio Urias who proved reliable in the Dodgers' fight to protect their slim division lead over San Francisco.

''I needed to be here in Los Angeles this year,'' De Leon said, ''because I wanted Vin Scully to call my game.''

Scully, the 88-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster, is retiring at season's end after a record 67 years in the Dodgers' booth.

The team hasn't indicated how long De Leon might stick around, although the right-hander has extra innings to spare after missing most of April and May with an ankle injury and shoulder inflammation.

''I've been throwing strikes and attacking the zone. Every night I go out I just try to improve something,'' he said. ''Keep it simple and not try to do too much, I think that's the key.''

De Leon was taken 24th in the 2013 draft out of Southern University. His first season in Rookie ball was a harsh introduction, with De Leon posting a 6.96 ERA. The following year, he improved enough to break Clayton Kershaw's low Class-A Great Lakes single-game strikeout record with 14. He was promoted to Class-AA Tulsa last year.

''He looks like he's in great shape, and he's on a roll right now,'' Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. ''Just to see that youthful enthusiasm that we've seen from a lot of our guys this year is pretty cool.''

De Leon last pitched on Aug. 28 for Oklahoma City against Colorado Springs, allowing four hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out a season-high 13 and had no walks. Before being promoted, he hadn't allowed a run in 17 2/3 innings and had 10 or more strikeouts in his last three starts.

He began the season ranked as the 24th overall prospect in the majors by MLB.com and the Dodgers' No. 3 prospect.

Roberts was asked who his favorite Puerto Rican player is.

''Well, if he throws well ...,'' the manager said, smiling and his voice trailing off.

De Leon typically goes to the movies on days he pitches as way to combat nerves. With Sunday's day game, he won't get that chance.

''It's going to be my dream,'' he said. ''I've had this dream since I was a kid. It's going to be really emotional, I know that, but I'll just try to keep focused and enjoy the ride.''

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