LOS ANGELES -- Kids typically like to climb whatever they can, so why should Julio Urias be any different?
Urias' skyward progression continued Friday for the Los Angeles Dodgers when he struck out a season-best eight batters and contributed five scoreless innings of a 3-2 victory in 10 innings over the Milwaukee Brewers. Urias did not get credit for his first major league victory.
Make it five total starts, one better than the next for the 19-year-old, who is absorbing knowledge like a sponge. At this rate, he will become downright unhittable in less than a month. The problem is that he isn't expected to be around a month from now.
Because the Dodgers are intent on protecting Urias' innings count, it remains in doubt whether he will still be around after his next scheduled outing, expected to be Wednesday at home against Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals.
"I think that's something we have constant conversations about and I can't sit here right now and tell you his fate for the next month," manager Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers rallied for their victory on the strength of Justin Turner's two home runs and his game-ending single. "I know that with all of our pitchers, but with Julio specifically, we're trying to talk through some things and map out some things for him."
Urias now has 22 innings pitched over his five major league starts. Combined with his 41 innings earlier this year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, his 63 total innings are fast approaching his career high of 87⅔ innings at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2014, at the ripe young age of 17.
Urias is now getting the rug pulled out from underneath him on multiple fronts. Not only is his season expected to end early, his outings are still brief. His eight-strikeout, five-inning effort Friday ended with him throwing only 85 pitches. He was on a 90- to 100-pitch limit.
But even at 19, Urias is savvy enough to know what is going on. Teenagers have a tendency to think they are invincible, but in a sign of his maturity, and why the Dodgers are so high on his future, this kid is not in a rush to prove he knows what is best.
"I continue the same, as I was before, that they make the decisions and I have to continue to do things whatever way they want me to," Urias said through an interpreter.
Urias had a wobbly first inning when he gave up two hits and had runners on the corners. But he wiggled out of the jam, throwing 25 pitches to do it. He managed to settle in quickly by the second inning, though, and by the fourth inning he struck out the side.
In his final inning, he mowed down the Brewers in order on two groundouts and a strikeout, but had to hand over the ball to the bullpen.
"That's what we work for, that's what we prepare for and the good thing is that we are getting better," Urias said.
The Dodgers did not have enough early offense to land Urias his first major league victory, but Turner tried. Turner hit a first-inning home run to back up Urias and added another in the eighth inning when the youngster was long out of the game.
That second home run helped send the game into extra innings, where Turner ended it with a bases-loaded single against a five-man Brewers infield. But without Urias holding the Brewers back early, the Dodgers' chances at victory would have been greatly reduced.
"He just has confidence and there is a comfort zone," Turner said. "He's obviously been throwing the ball really well these last couple of starts and I think you can really see it on him out there on the mound.
"He's that guy that everybody has been talking about the last two or three years. It's really fun to watch, it's fun to play behind and hopefully I can be here a while and watch him continue to grow."
Like a seed sprouting, the growth is happening quickly. It was three weeks ago in New York when Urias looked every bit the out-of-place youngster that he was. The following week in Chicago he was only slightly better, but there was progress. He pitched well against the Colorado Rockies earlier this month and even better against the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this week before heading into Friday with a full head of steam.
Three weeks is not even half of a spring training, yet Urias' advancement in that short amount of time has been monumental.
"That was a bad day [in New York], that was a bad outing and as I keep going I start feeling better," Urias said. "When the team trusts you, you feel like you have to go out there and do your job. And when you do do your job, you feel a little more comfortable."
The Nationals are up next and after that, a bevy of options await. Urias might get another outing with the Dodgers or he could be shut down for a stretch to halt his innings total. Maybe he gets sent back to Triple-A Oklahoma City and turned into a reliever for the stretch drive.
Whatever happens, though, the Dodgers now know that their kid will be up for it.
"The situation with a 19-year-old kid, you're mindful of it and winning is important at this level," Roberts said. "As an organization, we are hyper-sensitive to his usage. He threw the ball well and you want him to feel good about his outing, which I think he did."