Some twenty months removed from surgery on his shoulder, Julio Urias is ready to contribute in a mighty way to the Dodgers’ pitching staff… ultimately as a starter. Last September and October we saw that his shoulder was healthy. The surgeon said that there was no internal damage in his shoulder, which is common in older pitchers who have some
“miles” on their shoulders. A full recovery was predicted and we saw what a healthy Julio Urias can do.
He wasn’t satisfied however. He worked hard over the winter, lost weight and replaced fat with muscle. When he showed up at Spring Training, it was easy to see that he had taken his off-season seriously. The Julio Urias we used to know was a kid. The 2019 version is now a “man.” He will certainly be on an inning limit – I would expect 130-150, but I think his minor league days are over.
We are about to see why Andrew Friedman was loathe to trade this prized lefthander, who’s rookie season was much better than the rookie season of one Clayton Kershaw. He has a smooth delivery with easy arm action and hides the ball well. He used to be able to hit 97 MPH on the gun… and we saw him do it last year, but his fastball is usually 93-95. He has a hammer curveball and a decent slider, but what makes him so different from most young pitchers is his changeup. It looks just like his fastball and and is a swing-and-miss weapon that can destroy hitters.
I have always seen Urias as a Number One starter, but many other baseball analysts have seen him as a Number Two. Whatever he is or becomes will be pretty good in a rotation that includes Striker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. If it seems like I am high on Julio Urias, that is because I am. His surgery delayed his complete arrival, but this season, we shall see why the Dodgers resisted trading him many times.
The problem, as I see it, is “How do the Dodgers limit his innings?” He could stay in extended Spring Training, but I really can’t see that happening due to the shape he is in and how well he can pitch. He could be sent to OKC, but those pitches count too. To me, the only thing to do is to start him out in the bullpen as a long man. Let him pitch every 4th or 5th day, even if it means having to carry an additional pitcher. By the All-Star Break, they can release him from the pen.
There could be an injury to another starter and he could slide into the starters’ role, but if everyone is healthy, I look for Kenta Maeda to be moved back to the pen or be traded.
A lot of fans think that Hyun-Jin Ryu is injury prone, and while it may seem like that, I don’t agree. His first two seasons were relatively injury-free as he pitched 192 and 152 innings in 2013 and 2014. He then missed two seasons with shoulder surgery and had a long rehab, but in 2017 he returned for most of the season and pitched 126 innings. Last seasons’ injury was simply a fluke. It was known that he had shoulder issues when he was signed, so he has really only had one additional injury since then. I think he has a great chance of reaching at least 180 innings. If he does, I believe he will be highly productive ans sought after.
It would appear that Kershaw, Buehler, Ryu, Maeda and Hill will be the starting rotation early in the season, but Urias and Ross Stripling can form a deadly L-R duo in the pen who can come in and pitch an inning or three. However, both should be considered starters this spring. The bullpen is pretty crowded and some hard decisions are going to have to be made. Yimi Garcia is out of options, but Brock Stewart is not (according toThe Athletic), however are both longshots to make the team and could be lost… unless that can be “lights out” in Spring Training. These are good problems to have.
I see the playoff rotation as Kershaw, Buehler, Urias and Ryu. Ryu’s career ERA is 2.85 at Dodger Stadium and 3.56 on the road, so there is that. People always point to that but when you do, realize that Clayton’s ERA on the road is also higher by about the same amount (2.08 at home – 2.74 on the road).
This Spring Training stacks up as a very interesting showcase – we will see the usual starters and bullpen pieces, but we will also see Tony Gosolin, maybe Jesen Therrien and several other prospects who are not suspects. It should be a fun spring and these guts are focused on jumping out of the gate fast and finishing what they failed to do the past two years.
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Cover photo credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers