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Valenzuela was called up to the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen in September 1980.In the last month of the season, Valenzuela helped the Dodgers to a Western Division tie with the Houston Astros, pitching 17​ shutout innings of relief over the course of ten games, during which he earned two wins and a save.Earlier, right-hander Dave Stewart of the Oakland Athletics no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto, in a 5-0 win.

He was named a National League (NL) All-Star in each season and won a major league-leading 21 games in 1986, losing a second Cy Young Award to Mike Scott of the Houston Astros.Pitching for the Leones de Yucatán (Yucatán Lions) that year, Valenzuela went 10–12 with a 2.49 ERA and 141 strikeouts.A number of MLB teams scouted Valenzuela during this time.Punctuating this dominance on the mound, Valenzuela had an unusual, flamboyant wind-up (looking skyward just at the apex of every pitch), which drew attention of its own.

An instant media icon, Valenzuela drew large crowds from the Los Angeles Latino community every time he pitched and triggering high demand across the country for his rookie baseball cards.Dodgers then lost a one-game playoff – and thus the division championship – to the Astros.


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