Dodgers hope Kazmir rubs off on Urias

Club planning to use veteran's development as template for 19-year-old phenom

March 29th, 2016

PHOENIX -- Scott Kazmir, now 32, is the most seasoned veteran of the Dodgers' starting rotation.

But 12 years ago, he was Tampa Bay's version of Julio Urias -- knocking on the door of the Major League rotation at the tender age of 19.

The director of baseball development for the Rays at the time remembers the good and bad of Kazmir's early arrival, which serves instructive to Andrew Friedman now.

"With any young pitcher on the verge of his Major League debut, there are a lot of things to be mindful of in terms of their preparation and the routine they establish every five days," said Friedman, Kazmir's boss then with the Rays and again now as president of baseball operations of the Dodgers.

-- 2016 Opening Day coverage --

"For us, we're real focused on that, in terms of expediting the learning curve. We've seen a lot of young pitchers struggle with that, the preparation and hard work part that puts them in the best position to throw 180-200 innings."

Routine. Preparation. Hard work. The implication is that the Kazmirs of the world sometimes are gifted with so much raw talent that the game comes easily. Maybe too easily, as Kazmir acknowledged when asked if there is anything he would have done differently back then that might prove instructive to Urias now.

"Oh yeah, so many things," he said. "For me, I was a high school guy, I didn't have the college experience to prepare me for the big leagues, for situations that you come across. It's a growing process to get used to it, to really mature into a quality player."

Urias has never thrown more than 83 innings in a season, so even if he is ready to get Major League hitters out, his arm can't make the leap to 180 or more innings. That means he will either be shut down at some point for a month or so, or will have his starts cut short after four or five innings.

Both options make the temptation to rush him to the Major Leagues an even riskier proposition.

"I understand the expectations," said Urias. "For me, it's about concentrating and getting the job done and pitching well. I have to put in the work to get to where I want to be."

Does Kazmir have any suggestions for Urias?

"Just really take care of your body," Kazmir said. "Sometimes you take the body for granted because you're so young and you just get out of bed and do whatever. To have a routine early on is huge to be consistent in this game and carry on for the rest of your career. Watch the veterans, how they go about their business.

"When I was 20, everyone on the team was young. He's in a really good spot with veterans he can lean on. Just from being around him, he's not the type of guy who knows he's high profile and just shows up and that's enough. You see him in the weight room, he knows it takes hard work to get where you want to be."

Urias signed at age 16 and hadn't struggled until getting knocked around in a two-start call-up to Triple-A that the Dodgers believe will do more good than harm in the long run.

"One thing you find is that a young player that flies through the system has not had to fight through adversity," said Friedman. "They are comfortable with what they've done in the past because it's worked and they might not have an open mind to suggestions that will help them."

Friedman said Kazmir's approach now reflects his maturity as a veteran.

"Scott now is totally different than he was then in terms of his preparation, diametrically different," said Friedman. "Now his routine is a focal point for him."