Julio Urias stirs development-vs.-winning debate for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- As Julio Urias gets some all-important experience to kick off a career that is expected to be special, the Los Angeles Dodgers are also 0-2 in games he has started and are in no way in a position to sacrifice victories for development.

While it is a delicate balance, the Dodgers do not necessarily have many options anyway.

If not for injuries -- the latest to Alex Wood -- Urias probably would still be honing his craft in the minor leagues and not in the blinding spotlights of New York (May 27), Chicago (Thursday) and in Los Angeles (Tuesday). Manager Dave Roberts admitted as much.

“I think, if you look at our roster and what we envisioned for 2016, yeah, he wouldn't be here right now,” Roberts said, when asked if the Dodgers were more or less forced into calling up Urias now. “But I think you gotta adjust, and the game calls for that. Because of injuries, his time is now.”

If Urias stumbles again, leaving the Dodgers ready to make a change, they could go to Zach Lee at Triple-A Oklahoma City. After Lee, there aren’t many other options on the 40-man roster. Frankie Montas is close to making a return from surgery to remove a rib, but he has limited major league experience.

Brandon McCarthy (Tommy John surgery) still needs five minor league rehab starts before he can return, and Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder surgery) is still waiting to restart his rehab assignment after experiencing soreness following a recent start.

Even if he quickly turns into the pitcher the Dodgers envision him becoming, Urias’ starting gig on the Dodgers will be short-lived anyway. He is not expected to hit a high innings total this season. Neither is Ross Stripling, who was in the rotation to start the season but is back in the minor leagues to slow down his own rising innings count.

How long the Dodgers let Urias continue as the bridge to McCarthy and Ryu might come down to how he pitches in his first home start Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies.

“It is difficult; it’s not easy,” Roberts said. “To pitch up here at any age, it is difficult, especially for a 19-year-old. But we believe that his stuff plays at the major-league level. With the injuries that we’ve had to overcome this year, this gives people opportunities. Julio is one of those guys.”

And while development vs. winning is the debate when it comes to Urias, another element is at play too. Everybody loves a talented underdog, and at 19, Urias fits that bill.

“It’s exciting; he’s been highly touted,” Roberts said. “I’m a fan. Even the first couple starts before that day he was going to pitch, I was excited to watch him take the mound. And today’s no different. To be in front of the home crowd, I’m excited for him. To be in this spot at the age of 19, I’m hopeful, and I believe he’s going to throw well.”