A plethora of injuries have plagued the Los Angeles Dodgers in recent weeks, leaving both the bench and pitching staff depleted as a result.
Rich Hill, a key component of the Dodgers’ talented starting rotation, has been sidelined since the middle of June with a flexor strain. His initial replacement, Ross Stripling, is also on the shelf with biceps tendinitis.
While Hill continues progressing towards a potential return in September, Stripling’s future is a bit murkier. Originally scheduled to start a rehab assignment on Tuesday, those plans were postponed after neck issues resurfaced.
Briefly filling the void of Stripling in the starting rotation was Julio Urias, who made one shortened start against the Colorado Rockies last week before transitioning back to the bullpen in favor of top prospect Dustin May.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts acknowledged the organization likely envisions Urias remaining in the bullpen for the remainder of the season, though nothing is set in stone. “We’re in the midst of those conversations with Julio,” Roberts said.
“As far as starts going forward, we’re still not there yet. Right now, we see him in the ‘pen, but that could change in a couple weeks.
“Once we make that decision, if he’s going to stay in the ‘pen, to the end of the season or if we move him to a starting role, there’s a lot of variables. There’s Stripling, there’s May, there’s what we think is best for our ballclub in the postseason and what’s best for Julio. We’re going to keep having those internal conversations.
“I think Julio is handling everything that’s come his way with flying colors. I think it probably would be much easier for him if we could give him more consistent appearances. The last time, before he pitched [Sunday], it was one game in 10 or 11 days. That gets to be a little difficult for any pitcher. He’s doing a great job of continuing to not let affect his psyche. We’ll get him in there a little bit more consistently, for sure.”
Roberts additionally reiterated he foresees Urias returning to his roots as a starting pitcher next season. “We project him to be a starter for us next year and the years to come. As far as innings, that remains to be seen.”
As for how the left-hander is deployed come postseason time, the Dodgers are considering all of their options. They have explored the idea of utilizing Urias in high-leverage situations — a role that he took on at times during the Dodgers’ 2018 World Series run.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Roberts said of the scenario. “And that’s something we still are considering.
“The balance of still building him up to have a jumping off point for next year but also the role for ’19, if we decide to go that route, I still think there’s some time to morph into that role and give him the back-to-back, shorten his appearances, and things like that, which kind of could simulate more of a situation as far as playoff workload.”
Even though the Dodgers didn’t acquire an elite left-handed reliever at the July 31 trade deadline, Urias could hypothetically ease some of the burden if he is indeed built up for high-leverage situations in the postseason.
Along with Urias, other left-handed relievers that could be tasked with recording pivotal outs include Adam Kolarek, Caleb Ferguson and potentially Scott Alexander.