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Dominant Urias K’s 9, now headed to bullpen

@kengurnick
April 18, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- How loaded is the Dodgers’ starting rotation if there isn’t room for Julio Urias? Urias is headed to the bullpen with the return of Hyun-Jin Ryu from the injured list on Saturday, even though Urias didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning Thursday night in the Dodgers’

MILWAUKEE -- How loaded is the Dodgers’ starting rotation if there isn’t room for Julio Urias?

Urias is headed to the bullpen with the return of Hyun-Jin Ryu from the injured list on Saturday, even though Urias didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning Thursday night in the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the Brewers in their return to Miller Park, the scene of last year’s pennant clinching. The Dodgers have won five straight.

At least publicly, Urias has bought into the Dodgers’ “all-in” mentality, to the point of offering unexpected verbage to describe his feelings about being demoted.

“I’m happy. Very happy,” said Urias, whose nine strikeouts in six innings are a career best. “That’s what the team decided. I’m not here to make my own roles. They have their reasons why they are going to do that. I’m going to be ready and will stay strong.”

He’s behind Clayton Kershaw, Ryu, Walker Buehler, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill -- after one more rehab start -- and even Ross Stripling on the rotational depth chart, at least for now. There is seniority to consider, Urias’ value as a multiple-innings reliever, and management’s strategy of backing off the innings on his talented but delicate arm, to save him to start late in the season.

“We feel he’s a Major League starter,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “With who we have in our rotation, to curtail his innings, it’s best for the Dodgers now and going forward.”

But Roberts indicated Urias is likely to wind up back in the rotation later in the season.

“There’s a lot of baseball left,” Roberts said. “The way to manage him for the next three or four months or whatever it is, this is the best way, and to bank some innings on the back end is a decision we’re making.”

Roberts said he is confident that Urias will be given enough multiple-innings assignments that he will stay sharp and not lose the feel he showed against the Brewers.

Aside from a pair of walks, the 22-year-old Urias allowed only a two-out single up the middle by Orlando Arcia in the fifth inning. He threw 91 pitches and was supported by a solo homer from Cody Bellinger -- his 10th, tied for the NL lead with Christian Yelich, who also homered in the game -- a two-run homer from Max Muncy, and Alex Verdugo gunning down Hernan Perez trying to score from second on Lorenzo Cain’s two-out single to end the eighth inning.

“It’s hard to believe he’s a kid,” said Muncy. “He pitches like a veteran. He’s got electric stuff and definitely shows why he’s the future.”

Roberts praised Urias’ fastball command, as well as his changeup.

"The differentiation between the fastball and change was subtle,” Roberts said, “and those guys weren’t taking good swings.”

Urias is the second Dodger to allow only one hit and strike out nine or more Brewers in a start, joining Chan Ho Park, who accomplished the feat in 2000. This was a significant rebound for Urias, who was roughed up by Milwaukee for five earned runs a week ago.

Both sixth-inning homers came off Matt Albers. He took over for soft-throwing right-hander Zach Davies, who frustrated Dodgers hitters for the second time in a week, wiggling out of several jams in five scoreless innings.

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