When naming the left-handed options for his bullpen this season Saturday morning, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts listed three: Caleb Ferguson, Scott Alexander and Adam Kolarek. One notable name not mentioned was Julio Urías.
That’s because the Dodgers plan on having Urías, nearly four years removed from his hyped debut and after an unusual bullpen stint last season, in their starting rotation in 2020.
“He understands what’s in front of him,” Roberts said. “He’s got to continue to stay healthy, take care of his body.”
Urías might be the oldest 23-year-old in baseball. He arrived in the majors as a 19-year-old phenom in 2016 and immediately displayed his elite potential. But a major shoulder surgery followed the next year and he didn’t appear in the majors again until September 2018.
Last season, he bounced between the rotation and long-relief appearances every few days as the Dodgers closely monitored his workload to maximize his chances of remaining healthy for October. It was his best statistical season. He posted a 2.49 earned-run average in 79 2/3 innings across 29 relief appearances and eight starts. He rediscovered his high-end velocity and potent pitch mix.
But the on-field success was marred by his arrest in May on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic battery. Major League Baseball immediately placed him on paid administrative leave. He was reinstated after seven days, but was suspended for 20 games under the league’s domestic violence policy in August after prosecutors declined to press charges in June. He returned in September exclusively as a reliever, pitching in 13 games between the regular season and playoffs.
This year, he’ll have the opportunity to cement himself as a starter and fulfill the potential he flashed as a teenager. He reported to spring training 25 pounds lighter than in October after an offseason devoted to training and eating healthy, ready to seize his chance.
“Last year was pretty difficult on a lot of fronts,” Roberts said. “But also the inconsistency of role was hard for Julio. And we take for granted his buy-in sometimes. But now things will be more regimented as a starter so with that, the way he’s looked physically, to sustain that, I think he’s going to have a really nice year.”
May seen as a starter
If Dustin May is going to be on the Dodgers’ opening day roster, it’s going to be as a starter, not a reliever, Roberts said Saturday. That dwindles the chances of the organization’s top pitching prospect beginning the season in the major leagues with seemingly only one rotation spot open for competition behind Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price and Urías.
“Right now we’re going to continue to build him up as a starter,” Roberts said. just don’t see it making a whole lot of sense as a young player to put him in the pen out of camp.”
May, 22, made his major-league debut in August as a starter and made three more starts with the Dodgers, but the right-hander spent most of his time in the big leagues as a reliever to bolster the bullpen for the postseason with a power arm. He appeared in 12 games as a reliever between the regular season and playoffs. Roberts said it is vital that May develops his changeup as a consistent third pitch to complement his sinker and curveball.
May has been slowed by “side” soreness, keeping off the mound this spring, but is slated to throw a bullpen session Sunday.
“We understand he’s done some really good things for us,” Roberts said. “And right now things can change as far as health. We’re just encouraging Dustin to control what he can control, and right now, it’s get healthy and get on the mound and develop that pitch count.”
Roberts said Tony Gonsolin is “in the same bucket,” but envisions a scenario in which the 25-year-old right-hander is in the Dodgers’ bullpen on opening day. Roberts cited Gonsolin’s age, previous workload and extensive experience as a reliever between the minors and majors.
Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to throw a live batting practice session Saturday, but it was pushed back to Sunday because of rain. … Roberts said outfielder Joc Pederson is dealing with “side” soreness, but could resume hitting Sunday or Monday.