Like Kenta Maeda in previous years, Julio Urías is being asked by the Dodgers to change and juggle roles in the pressure of the postseason. Urías starts Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday, having already started once in the postseason with three multi-inning relief appearances.
Depending on how much he throws Saturday and how the Series goes, his work might not be done. In the National League Championship Series, Urías started and pitched five innings in a Game 5 win, then saved the Game 7 clincher with three scoreless innings.
Will Smith, who also caught Maeda last year, draws some comparisons between them.
“They both attack the strike zone, not afraid of the big moment,” said Smith. “Julio’s done it the whole postseason. He’s pitched spectacular and I see him keep doing that the rest of the postseason.”
Coming off shoulder surgery early in his career, Urías was handled with kid gloves. This year, management took off the wraps.
“You could debate whether we were too careful with him, whether we didn’t push him enough,” said manager Dave Roberts. “But I do think Julio’s going to have a great career. And I do think the foundation of taking care of him in his early years to allow him to go forward and have a great career beyond with the Dodgers, or if he chooses to stay with the Dodgers, that’s a part of it. That’s not easy for an organization to do. I hope he appreciates that. Whatever we did was the best thing for his career.”
Urías said he learned how to handle the shifting roles from watching Maeda, “and, really, from everyone. They’re really good examples. You try to observe them and pick up things on their routine. Whether it’s a start or reliever. It gives me a lot of motivation being around all this talent and learning from them.”
• One of the reasons Austin Barnes got the Game 3 start behind the plate is his proficiency at pitch framing. The simple explanation for that skill is fooling the umpire, but Barnes said it has as much to do with making sure that strikes are not called balls as having balls called strikes.
“You’re trying to get as many strikes as you can,” said Barnes. “You don’t want to lose strikes in the zone for your pitcher; those come back and bite you. Getting strikes called strikes is a big important aspect of it. It is fighting for your pitcher every pitch. Positive counts, negative counts are big aspects of the game.”
• You might see Kenley Jansen Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning. Or the seventh inning. Maybe even the fifth inning. He’s no longer the closer, because the Dodgers don’t have one. To a great extent, they’ve eliminated bullpen roles entirely.
“Our bullpen is very flexible,” said Roberts. “They’re very talented. To be able to use guys in different spots in the order, different runs, and still feel our guy is a good matchup, I think is important. I think all of our guys, to pitch when called upon is huge. It’s something where in the bullpen with roles, we’re doing away with those. It’s something you’ve got to have those conversations and it takes time. To break down those walls, to have those guys take down whatever part of the lineup that’s asked upon of them is most important.”