Heading into Spring Training, the Los Angeles Dodgers very clearly expected to field an Opening Day rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. That left Caleb Ferguson, Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart, Dennis Santana and Julio Urias as depth.
Of course, best-laid plans can often go awry, and that’s exactly what transpired. Kershaw was shut down early into camp and was eventually forced to begin the season on the 10-day injured list because of shoulder inflammation.
That moved Stripling from an expected role in the bullpen to the starting rotation. Then Rich Hill suffered a sprained MCL in his knee during the middle of March, and that created an opportunity for Urias.
While the young left-hander began the season as a starter, his time in the rotation hinged on whenever Kershaw and/or Hill returned. While Kershaw was activated this week, Ryu suffering a strained groin kept Urias in the rotation.
But with Ryu due to be activated Saturday, Urias now is headed for the bullpen. He’ll do so coming off the best start of his career, but that isn’t causing any frustration for the 22-year-old, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“I’m happy. Very happy. That’s what the team decided. I’m not here to make my own roles. They have their reasons why they are going to do that. I’m going to be ready and will stay strong.”
Urias carried a no-hitter through four innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, and was on the verge of getting through the fifth before allowing a two-out single to Orlando Arcia. Prior to that point, Urias retired 14 of the first 16 batters faced.
He finished the night with a career-high nine strikeouts and just the one hit allowed. Urias became the youngest Dodgers pitcher with nine strikeouts and one hit or fewer since Clayton Kershaw in 2009.
Home runs by Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy in the sixth inning gave the Dodgers a decided lead, which resulted in Urias recording his first Major League win since Aug. 27, 2016.
The Dodgers have not publicly revealed a target for Urias’ innings limit this season, but it’s believed to be around 70-100.