After a lengthy recovery from anterior capsule surgery that spanned nearly a year, former Los Angeles Dodgers top prospect Julio Urias finally returned to the mound in 2018.
He appeared in his first professional game of the season on July 30, making a start for the rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers. In a shortened outing, Urias allowed just one hit and one run with two strikeouts over 1.2 innings pitched.
The left-hander made one additional start for the affiliate before earning promotions to High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He appeared in a combined six games between the two levels and returned to the Majors as a September call-up.
Taking on a relief role, Urias was strategically deployed in low-leverage situations by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. Each of his three regular season appearances came in games in which Los Angeles won by double digits.
Despite not seeing much run in the Majors, Urias was included on both the Dodgers’ National League Championship Series and World Series active rosters. He found success and was one of the few bright spots amid another disappointing loss in the Fall Classic.
Across three Minor League affiliates in 2018, Urias pitched to a 4.02 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 26 strikeouts against seven walks in 15.2 innings of work.
Between the regular season and postseason, Urias posted a superb 1.74 ERA and 0.58 WHIP with 12 strikeouts compared to just one walk over 10.1 innings pitched.
In a win-or-go-home Game 7 of the NLCS, Urias was called upon for a tough spot in the fifth inning. With the Dodgers leading, 2-1, He was tasked with retiring 2018 National League MVP Christian Yelich, who represented the go-ahead run.
With two outs in the frame, Urias escaped unscathed by inducing the biggest out of the game. He got Yelich to fly out after Chris Taylor robbed him of a potential extra-base hit with a spectacular diving catch.
The Dodgers would go on to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers by a final score of 5-1 and advanced to their second consecutive World Series as a result.
Despite a successful stint in the bullpen, Urias is expected to reprise his role as a starting pitcher next season. As it currently stands, the Dodgers have a plethora of options to choose from when constructing their 2019 rotation.
With Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu leading the way at the top of the rotation, Urias presumably will battle for one of the remaining two spots alongside the likes of Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Alex Wood, among others.