Urías Still Improving, but Future Starts Are Numbered

(Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfield/USA Today)

Because 19-year-old rookie Julio Urias was on a predetermined innings limit at the beginning of the season, the Dodgers‘ lefty could be on schedule to make only one more big league start in 2016, regardless of how well he performs his next time out.

Urías now has 22 innings pitched over his five major league starts, and he just keeps getting better. In his most recent outing against the Brewers on Friday night, he went five scoreless innings surrendering only five hits and a walk while striking out eight batters.

Along with the 41 innings thrown at Triple-A Oklahoma City earlier in the season, Urías currently stands at 63 total frames thrown, only 25 shy of 88 — his career-high with High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2014.

Although many of the pundits believe the specific innings limit to be at 100 frames, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wouldn’t reveal an exact number.

“I think that’s something we have constant conversations about and I can’t sit here right now and tell you his fate for the next month,” Roberts said after the 3-2 win over Milwaukee. “I know that with all of our pitchers, but with Julio specifically, we’re trying to talk through some things and map out some things for him.”

Urías is scheduled to start the final game of a three-game set against the Nationals on Wednesday, but what happens after that remains to be seen. He could conceivably stay with the Dodgers and pitch out of the bullpen, head back to Triple-A and join the OKC relief corps, or he could be shut down completely and take a ride back to extended spring training — similar to the path of rookie Ross Stripling‘s journey last month.

Whatever the case may be, Urías understands that the decisions being made for him by management are in the best interests of his pitching future.

“I continue the same, as I was before, that they make the decisions and I have to continue to do things whatever way they want me to,” Urias said.

In the meantime, Roberts continues to offer up praise for his young southpaw prodigy.

“He’s handled himself a lot better than I would have at 19,” Roberts said. “The players like him. That’s a very good barometer in seeing how the guys take to him and joke with him and try to teach him. He’s a great young man.”

The original goal may have been to keep Urías in the rotation until either Hyun-jin Ryu or Brandon McCarthy completed their respective rehab assignments and were cleared to pitch for the Dodgers, however, that plan may end up resulting in several weeks short of succeeding. McCarthy threw three full innings his second time out for the Quakes on Thursday, while Ryu went four frames on Friday night. It’s probably safe to say that both need at least another three rehab starts before being considered to join the Dodgers’ rotation.

As far as pitchers who could bridge the gap to a McCarthy or Ryu return, Jose De Leon, Frankie Montas, Jharel Cotton and Nick Tepesch head the list.

Since returning from the disabled list earlier in June, De León has 12 strikeouts in six innings of work over two starts. He’ll be stretched out four to five frames when Oklahoma City faces New Orleans Saturday night.

Montas threw 69 pitches over four innings for OKC on Wednesday, his second consecutive four-inning start and his first since his rehab assignment for rib resection surgery officially ended.

After pitching in the bullpen early in the year, Cotton has a 2.57 ERA in five starts since returning to the Oklahoma City rotation, with 34 strikeouts and nine walks in 28 innings of work.

Tepesch pitched eight innings on Friday night, allowing only one run and three hits while striking out eight batters. The 27-year-old righty also went 2-for-4 at the dish with an RBI, as Oklahoma City downed New Orleans, 6-2.


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