GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It’s become standard operating procedure for the Dodgers to “slow-play” their talented young pitchers, so chances are slim that this season will begin with both Walker Buehler and Julio Urias in the starting rotation, even with the possible absence of Clayton Kershaw.
But if their health holds, at some point this year the 24-year-old Buehler and the 22-year-old Urias will be rotation mates, and they will give the Dodgers a pair of young studs not often seen in an organization that historically relies on experienced arms.
It’s been a decade since the Dodgers opened a season with a pair of starters in the rotation under the age of 25 (Kershaw and Chad Billingsley). It’s been more than two decades since they’ve had a pair of under-25 starters win at least 10 games each (Chan Ho Park and Ismael Valdez in 1997).
Orel Hershiser was already 25 when he was a rookie. Here’s how he sizes up Buehler and Urias.
“They both have a chance to be dominant pitchers for a long time,” said Hershiser, a 19-game winner in his second season. “Julio came with a precocious ability to locate the baseball, with pretty refined, repeatable mechanics. Looked like what you would teach. Walker came with exceptional velocity and exceptional ability to spin the baseball, but not with as much precision as he thought was necessary as far as location.
“Now Julio has developed an aggressiveness to let the ball loose more and be more arrogant with his pitches and upgrade the effort, and Walker has actually backed off a little bit and gotten a little more precise and it’s more about location and 94 [mph] well-located, compared to 98 and maybe it’s a strike. Both are coming to a big league pitcher place from different directions. Both arriving at a very young age.”
And that’s not common in Dodgers history, but it's not unheard of. In 1983, a 22-year-old Fernando Valenzuela and a 24-year-old Alejandro Pena combined for 27 wins.
In 1981, Valenzuela was 20 and Bob Welch 24 when the Dodgers won the World Series. That was the first time the Dodgers counted on two under-25 starters since 1970, when 23-year-olds Alan Foster and Sandy Vance were in the rotation.
In 1968, future Hall of Famer Don Sutton was 23 and Bill Singer was 24 when they combined for 24 wins. A year earlier and a year younger, with Sandy Koufax having just retired, that same pair won 23 games.
One of the best young duos in Los Angeles history was Don Drysdale and Stan Williams. In 1961, the 24-year-olds combined for 28 wins. In 1960, they won 29. And in 1958, the Dodgers had three starters younger than 25 -- Drysdale, Koufax and Williams -- and Johnny Podres was 25. But that club went 71-83.