An unprecedented number of injuries led to the Los Angeles Dodgers using four rookie starting pitchers last season. That excludes Kenta Maeda, who had eight years of experience in Japan, and was signed with the expectation of being included in the rotation.
Julio Urias was among the quartet of young hurlers the Dodgers called upon, with his arrival in the Majors coming earlier than the club anticipated. Urias made his MLB debut last May when Alex Wood was scratched from a scheduled start.
Urias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City the day after his start, but returned to make another turn in the Dodgers rotation. He then stuck with the team into early July.
Urias essentially split the remainder of the month with the Dodgers and Oklahoma City, and re-joined the Major League club for good come August. Throughout the back and forth trips, the Dodgers remained cognizant of Urias’ workload.
He pitched on an innings limit, which resulted in a move to the bullpen, and will again be closely monitored this season. “It’s a team decision. I’m just going to get ready, and whatever they say is what we’ll do,” Urias said from Dodgers FanFest on Saturday.
“It’s hard, because you want to go out there and pitch and help your team. But like I’ve always said, it’s the decision that the team makes, and I’m going to respect that.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently said consideration was being given to keeping Urias in extended Spring Training when the team breaks camp. While the Dodgers intend to have an innings limit in place, there are multiple methods available.
Beyond potentially holding the 20-year-old back at the conclusion of Spring Training, the club instead could elect to shut Urias down at some point during the season. He didn’t specify a preference for either strategy.
“I’m going to be ready to pitch during Spring Training,” Urias said. “I’m going to continue to keep working, I’m going to work hard and get ready. Whatever decision they make, I’m going to respect it.”
The Dodgers project to have an influx of starting pitchers, which makes the prospect of gradually increasing Urias’ innings base all the more possible.
He threw a combined 127.2 innings last season with Oklahoma City and the Dodgers, postseason included. Urias’ previous career high was 87.2 innings pitched, set in 2014. No matter what the Dodgers decide, the young southpaw will head into the 2017 season with valuable experience gained and confidence.
“It was incredible,” Urias said of his debut in the Majors. “The first three outings I had, I stumbled a little bit, but after that I gained my confidence and was able to throw the ball better.”
“[Pitching in the postseason] was great, especially with the people and pressure, I felt it was a great opportunity. I was in a very blessed situation.”