Los Angeles Dodgers top pitching prospect Julio Urias has already pitched in a Spring Training game during his young career — three, in fact, prior to Friday’s appearance against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
However, with Urias now a year older, more experienced and a window of opportunity in the Dodgers’ starting rotation, his 2016 Cactus League debut came with more intrigue than year’s prior. The outing was delayed a bit as Urias was unable to throw due to groin soreness.
Urias didn’t disappoint as he entered in the seventh inning with the Dodgers holding a one-run lead. All the young lefty did was strikeout the side, sending Camelback Ranch into a frenzy.
The enthusiasm quickly came to a halt in the eighth, with the Angels tagging Urias for a leadoff single, RBI double and RBI triple in consecutive at-bats to take a 5-4 lead.
Urias walked Rafael Ortega and was lifted with runners on the corners and no outs. The prized left-hander chalked up his struggles to fastball command and attempting to pitch more calmly, per Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
“I had trouble with the command of my fastball,” Urias, 19, said through an interpreter. “The first inning, my adrenaline was flowing and I pitched well. I tried to relax in the second inning, take a few deep breaths but it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to work out.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t express any concern over Urias’ rocky second inning of work:
“Julio is fine,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “The ball is coming out of his hand well. The first inning was really good. You know, he was excited and so he was trying to stay down in the zone but he elevated too much and they made him pay.”
Roberts previously spoke fondly of Urias, calling him “a special young man.” While the 19 year old may be part of the consideration for the vacant fifth starter’s spot in the rotation, Urias presumably faces an uphill battle.
The Dodgers have carefully built up his innings base and he’s yet to toss more than 87.2 innings in a single season. Some of the development was stunted last season as Urias missed one month after undergoing elective cosmetic surgery on his left eye to remove a benign mass.
Overall in 2015, including rehab starts with the Arizona League Dodgers and High-A Rancho Cucamonga, Urias threw 80.1 innings. He was was 3-4 with a 2.77 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 13 starts at the Double-A level.
Urias then struggled during his brief time with Triple-A Oklahoma City at the end of last season, going 0-1 with an 18.69 ERA over two starts.