‘Door's open’ for Urias to crash rotation

Promising lefty flashes plus velocity in first spring start

February 28th, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- Manager Dave Roberts said “the door’s open” for to start the season in the Dodgers' starting rotation.

“Absolutely,” Roberts said after Urias pitched a 1-2-3 inning in Wednesday’s start against Oakland.

“It’s unfair to put limits on him as far as the potential to open the season. Right now, he’s doing everything he possibly can. The door’s open for him. The opportunity will present itself if it’s supposed to. We’ve said from the start of spring, we’re seven or eight starting pitchers deep. Fortunately, we don’t have to make that decision right now.”

Urias made 14 pitches, inducing a pair of ground-ball outs before finishing with a flourish, a 3-2 fastball thrown past Matt Chapman. With Clayton Kershaw’s balky shoulder, it doesn’t take a wild imagination to envision Urias breaking camp in the Major League rotation. Scouts on Wednesday clocked his fastball at 94-97 mph, his breaking ball was crisp and the changeup improving with use.

“He’s been sharp all spring,” said Roberts. “Fastball 94-97. Loved the at-bat against Chapman right there. He’s focused. He looks great. He’s determined. He’s on that starter rotation and we’ll see him in five days.”

That’s a real victory for Urias, who came to camp last spring on the rebound from major shoulder surgery thinking he had a chance to win a job, only to be throttled back by management that wanted him to be a postseason weapon, which he was.

“I took this offseason as if it was a normal offseason,” said Urias. “Whatever opportunity they give you is an opportunity to show what you can do. Before I thought about wanting to stay here, now I focus on staying healthy and preparing and whatever decision they make is on them.”

Despite Roberts saying he wouldn’t put limits on Urias, the Dodgers have put limits on Urias. They iced him for most of 2018 -- a total of 22 innings, including the postseason -- and are mindful of any crazy spike in innings this year for the 22-year-old lefty.

“Look at how much he pitched last year,” said Roberts. “To take the leash off him wouldn’t be smart for him or us.”

Roberts noted that Urias came to camp this spring looking fitter than a year ago. Urias said he worked in the offseason with Major Leaguer Oliver Perez at a Hermosillo, Mexico, gym that Urias co-owns.

Urias already has a remarkable aspect to his career. Despite making his Major League debut in 2016 as a 19-year-old, injuries have limited him to only 26 regular-season MLB games. But he’s already made nine postseason appearances, two in 2016 and seven last year after spending nearly all of the regular season having his innings rationed in the Minor Leagues.

Originally signed as a 16-year-old, Urias pitched his first Spring Training game showing the poise at 18 that he again demonstrated last October in the World Series. You can’t teach that.