Same Julius Uriathe same dominant weapon Dodgers I’ve been seeing an appearance since last summer, on a Tuesday evening. He was electrified again, continuing a year-long run that saw him become one of the best starting pitchers in the major leagues.
What changed on Tuesday at Oracle Park when he cut through San Francisco Giants for six innings before he was unlucky in the seventh, there was his place in the Dodgers’ plans.
Urias’ role in the postseason is unclear this time around — not after the Dodgers failed to acquire a starting pitcher before Tuesday’s trade deadline. As he stands, he’s not the type to switch back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen in October. He is a conscientious starter. He just might be the ace of the stretching club.
“He’s very important,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said ahead of Wednesday’s game in San Francisco. “Obviously what he did and showed and how he performed as a starting pitcher, swing and miss, length, efficiency, stuff. So yes, we are totally counting on Julio.”
Urias, 25, has turned his teen potential into reality over the past 13 months, recording the lowest ERA of any major player since July 1 last year. Major injuries behind. He is one of the best players in the Dodgers. On Wednesday, he provided additional evidence.
The left-hander limited the Giants to four hits in six scoreless innings until he conceded three singles — two that didn’t leave the infield — to start seventh.
He was visibly angry when Roberts pulled him out after 96 pitches in a 3-0 lead. He passed the ball to Roberts without looking at him. He wanted a chance to escape. Roberts decided to play it safe. It was the right move: Evan Phillips slid out of the predicament with the Giants’ dim-witted baserunner. When it was all over, Urias’ ERA had fallen to 2.57 this season, the fourth-best in the National League.
The Dodgers entered Wednesday with the best starting ERA (2.81) and the second-best starting FIP (3.49) in major tournaments. Their rotation doesn’t have a bright hole a year after they lost Trevor Bauer to suspension and acquired Max Scherzer to replace him.
But there are questions about the current group.
Injuries limited Andrew Heaney to five starts. Tony Gonsolin is not feeling well after an unexpected All-Star first half. Tyler Anderson never made the playoffs. Clayton Kershaw spent a month on the injured list with a back injury after a serious elbow injury late last season that almost required surgery for Tommy John.
As such, the front office would prefer to trade the starting pitcher to the frontline by the trade deadline to strengthen the group. Luis Castillo, Frankie Montaz and Pablo Lopez headlined the options available. But the team found the market too expensive. Castillo moved to the Seattle Mariners. Montas was sent to the New York Yankees. Lopez stayed with the Miami Marlins.
On Tuesday, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman expressed confidence in his staff, pointing to talent on the injured list that should improve the group for the playoffs.
Walker Buhler, Dustin May, Brousdar Graterol, Blake Trainen, Victor Gonzalez, Tommy Kanle and Danny Duffy are the pitchers the Dodgers think have a chance of returning to the field.
“We have a really talented group that has some combination of these guys coming back and it’s really high level to add that quality to the guys that we have right now,” Friedman said. “It just spoke of a high bar. We’re very excited about the potential of what our pitching could look like in October.”
Roberts echoed Friedman on Wednesday.
“It’s collective,” Roberts said. “It’s about pitching. And when you talk about winning one game or 11 games in October, we just feel like with the selection of pitchers we have, we can prevent 27 strikeouts from being hurt.”
On Wednesday, May made his third start to rehab in Oklahoma City. The strong-shooting right-hander, who underwent Tommy John surgery last May, gave up one try and two hits with six strikeouts in four innings.
Buhler’s prognosis is much more vague. He started throwing less than two weeks ago, six weeks after being stopped for a flexor tendon strain. There probably won’t be enough time to build it for more than three or four opportunities before October. The role of an assistant in the postseason is on the table.
“I think anything is possible,” Friedman said.
Buhler received the ball in the first game in 2020 and again in 2021. It will probably be Urias’s turn in 2022 if he stays on the right track.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.