For all their planning and cautious handling of Julio Urias, the Los Angeles Dodgers will only have six starts to show for it this season. Urias is scheduled to undergo anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder early next week.
He’ll miss the remainder of this season and significant portion of 2018. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the club views the total length of the recovery as 12-14 months.
While the Dodgers’ top young pitcher faces a bit of an uncertain future, the team doesn’t believe Urias is in the same boat as others who have had their careers derailed by the operation.
“Talking through it, there’s been a lot of conversations over the last three or four days, it’s not as serious as it sounded to me on the front end,” Friedman explained.
“It was an acute injury that happened on a pitch. The fact that it’s not wear and tear that’s happened over the years makes the prognosis that much better. Doctor ElAttrache is really confident we’ll be able to take care of this and get [Urias] back to his accustomed level.”
Urias felt the initial discomfort after throwing a pitch in his final start with Triple-A Oklahoma City. He still managed to complete two more innings while maintaining usual velocity.
Stiffness the following the day led to the Dodgers scheduling an MRI, and a lack of improvement amounted to additional testing. The initial diagnosis was shoulder inflammation, though a second MRI revealed the anterior capsule injury.
Where Urias — and the Dodgers — caught a break is that the shoulder issue does not include damage to the labrum or rotator cuff. “The rest of his arm looks really good,” Friedman said.
“I think this one is unique in some respects. A, because of the age, and B, there’s just not as much involvement in other parts of the shoulder like with others we found. This one being acute, knowing exactly how to go in and repair it as opposed to clearing out scar tissue, makes it that much better and easier of a fix.”
Urias’ injury comes with an added sense of frustration considering the Dodgers did all they could to meticulously build the young hurler’s innings base. Some have gone so far as to say the club was too conservative.
“I think all of us feel very confident that if we didn’t protect him at all the last couple of years, it could’ve happened sooner or in a more significant way,” Friedman said. “It’s just not something we spend a lot of time thinking about.
“Nothing that we do is black or white; there’s a ton of grey in everything that we do. I don’t think the alternative is to let [young pitching prospects] go out and throw 200 innings irrespective of how they’re built up.”
Rather than opt for surgery the Dodgers considered having Urias rehab the injury. However, the non-guarantee that it would be successful and length of time needed to determine that (minimum of four months), wasn’t considered a prudent path.
“Our focus and mindset right now is on doing everything we can to get him back healthy to help us for many years to come,” Friedman said. “We’ll continue to build him up properly once he gets back, and do everything we can for him to put 200 innings on his body year in and year out.”