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Dodgers not rushing Urias' road to recovery

FILE - In this May 9, 2017, file photo, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias throws during the team's baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Los Angeles. Urias, the Dodgers’ top prospect, needs shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season. The 20-year-old is scheduled to have his left anterior capsule repaired Tuesday, June 27. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File) (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
February 14, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first round of bullpen sessions concluded for the Dodgers on Thursday, and the early leader for maximum buzz was Julio Urías. The left-hander was dazzling in his session, but at this point he has an uphill battle to make the Opening Day roster.:: Spring Training coverage

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first round of bullpen sessions concluded for the Dodgers on Thursday, and the early leader for maximum buzz was Julio Urías. The left-hander was dazzling in his session, but at this point he has an uphill battle to make the Opening Day roster.
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
With Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda penciled in as the five starters, Urias either is competing for a bullpen role or he is in jeopardy of starting the season in Triple-A, even though he pitched more for the Dodgers in the postseason last year (6 1/3 innings) than he did in the regular season (four innings).
Roberts said Urias, who returned from major shoulder surgery last season, will have an innings limit this year, but didn't give any specifics regarding the limit.
"He was a guy who was abbreviated last year and when it mattered in the postseason, we counted on him," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "When you look at the workload the last couple of years, it's pretty low, so we've got to be mindful of that and how we ramp him up is at the forefront of our minds. We've got to make sure there are bullets left for the middle and end of the season."
Urias, who debuted at 19 in 2016, is the youngest player on the 40-man roster at 22. Roberts hedged on whether Urias would be considered for a bullpen role.
"He can do a lot of things," Roberts said. "With Julio, there's an individual development part, and when you're talking about injury, that's another consideration."
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Other longshots to make the rotation are Ross Stripling, Caleb Ferguson and Brock Stewart.
Around the horn
• Roberts said he's confident Cody Bellinger will rebound from his struggles against left-handed pitching last year, which is why he expects Bellinger to be an everyday player after having to sit him against lefties much of the second half last season.
"He just got into a funk mechanically, and the results weren't there," Roberts said. "The quality of at-bats for me wasn't what I saw in '17. There was a quality that wasn't there. You have to make a decision to stay the course or you've got to make a change, and we just felt at that point [David Freese] was a solution. Right now and going forward, Cody's got to be our guy."
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Bellinger hit .226 with six homers and a .681 OPS against left-handers in 2018 compared to .271 with 12 homers and a .903 OPS in 2017, when he was the National League Rookie of the Year.
"This is a production business," Roberts said. "When you're playing for a championship every single year, there's nothing handed to anybody. There's a point where production should matter, right? But like I said, for him to be in there every day is a great sign for the Dodgers.
"Last year the league made adjustments on him, throwing him balls above the belt and tying him up and when you start getting into May and see your average and anxiety sets in and you make mechanical changes. The lefty was spinning him and balls he was taking [in '17] he was swinging at. For him to right the ship, which he did last year, speaks to his compete and maturity."
• Because of threatening skies and a wet weather forecast, the Dodgers cut short Thursday's workout and pushed back the start time for Friday's workout.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.