<
>

Julio Urias learning lessons, making contributions to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Summer school continues to offer key lessons for Julio Urias, the Los Angeles Dodgers' 19-year-old quick study, who was at it again on Wednesday.

The promising left-hander fought through a command issue early and gave the Dodgers five bumpy, yet effective, innings in a wild, come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Six starts into his career, Urias has shown signs of a bright future, even if total domination has escaped him to this point. He has pitched better than the two runs, six strikeouts performance he delivered Wednesday -- but giving his team a chance at a victory is all the Dodgers have asked.

Kept to an innings limit, Urias was being held to a soft cap of 90 pitches. He ended up throwing a career-high 93, even though he already was at 45 pitches after two innings.

"Julio gave us what he had; he just got that pitch count up," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "He struck out six, and I thought he threw well. He competed and gave us a chance to win the game."

Having trouble staying in the strike zone in the early going, especially with his slow curveball in the first two frames, the Nationals got to Urias in the second inning. He gave up an RBI double off the top of the left-field wall to No. 8 hitter Danny Espinosa, then was met with an RBI double from opposing pitcher Joe Ross.

"I was struggling a little bit with my curve and it was only working with [Bryce] Harper," Urias said through an interpreter about the Nationals' main offensive threat. Harper struck out twice and fouled out against Urias.

"It wasn't until the last three innings that it started working well and I was able to incorporate it better."

Urias was touched only for one hit in each of his final three innings. As effective as he was Wednesday, the outing did put a halt to the steady progression he had been making in each of his first five starts.

Urias opened with a rough one against the Mets in New York on May 27.

But by Friday, he had settled in enough to deliver five scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, with a career-best eight strikeouts.

This start lagged behind that one, mostly because of his shaky two innings at the outset.

"I feel more confident now, and every time they let me know I'll stay in rotation, I feel a little more confident and I feel part of the rotation," Urias said. "I will continue working to stay there."

Urias is now at 27 innings in the major leagues -- and 68 innings when combined with his work at Triple-A Oklahoma City earlier this season. The Dodgers have not said how much further they will be willing to ride Urias this season, but they will put a limit on his usage.

The most Urias has ever recorded were the 87⅔ innings he posted in 2014 at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He combined to post 80⅓ innings over four separate levels last season.

At five innings a pop, Urias would have six more starts in him before he reaches the cusp of the 100-inning mark.

Yet all the Dodgers are promising their youngster at this point is one more start on the upcoming road trip to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. After that, the team will reassess their pitcher's status.

There remains the possibility that Urias heads back to Triple-A and returns as a reliever later in the year. Less likely is that he remains on the major league roster all season, so a move is expected at some point.

For now, his lessons learned over the past four weeks will serve him well in the future.

"I've learned that at this level, you have to make the least amount of mistakes as possible, and when you do make mistakes, you'll pay the price," Urias said, sounding like a pitcher who has picked up a thing or two in just six big league starts.