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By Jon Weisman
Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman fielded questions on a conference call from New York late today, mainly on Julio Urias but also on the status of Mike Bolsinger, Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Here are Friedman’s comments (the questions are paraphrased):
When was the decision to promote Urias made?
We’ve had a lot of conversations in the last month about Julio, thinking through different ideas in terms how he can help us win games. It’s not just a case of assessing his talent and seeing if he could help us, it’s also about finishing off some development — also the workload and how to manage that going forward. When this (left triceps soreness) came up with Woody, it made it obviously much easier in that we needed someone who’d be able to go Friday.
Would you have expected during Spring Training to call Urias up at this point in the season?
I think by the end of Spring Training, it was something that we kind of expected, assuming that he continued his development. Just the growth from 2015 Spring Training to 2016 Spring Training was pretty significant, but also with the injuries we had in Spring Training, we felt like our most acute need on the pitching end would most likely be in the first half of the season, as opposed to the second half. September and obviously October are different animals, but we felt that in the first half the need could be more acute, (and) it would be a meritocracy and we’d figure out where we are at different points and who the right guy is.
What kind of pitch limit will Urias be on Friday?
Doc (Dave Roberts) and Honey (Rick Honeycutt) are going to feel that out. I think it’s going to be a pretty normal start in terms of young pitchers who come up to the Major Leagues — in that range for sure — and those guys are going to be on top of it and be really mindful of it, just as they were with (Ross Stripling) and a number of our good young pitchers. So nothing that out of the ordinary.
Is this a spot start? Or is Urias in the big-leagues to stay?
We’re going to assess where things are after this start and go from there. We haven’t made any long-term determinations at this point. Obviously, we have to be mindful of his workload for the season. On the one hand, you want to make sure he gets the range he wants. On the other hand, you want to balance the “right now” part of the season with potentially September as well, having as many capable arms as we can have then. So we’re just going to get through tomorrow night and continue to assess it.
I think there’s different ways you can do it. You can take a break at some point in the season and ramp back up. You can just max it all out, and obviously (then) he’d be done. Or you can have stings of starter workload and then an extended stint in a controlled way in the bullpen. … My sense is balancing between rotation and bullpen is what’s going to end up being the route we go, but obviously at this point there’s a lot up in the air.
How would Urias adapt to the bullpen without having really been a reliever this season?
We’ve definitely talked about that before this came up. It’s tricky, in that he’s not in a position to be used like most relievers are, in the sense that he hasn’t had the same experience of getting hot and then sitting back down, then getting hot again and coming into the game — or pitching in a game and coming back the next day or with one day off. … Going as we are now with an eight-man bullpen makes it easier, but again, (we’re) just trying to balance ensuring that we do everything we can developmentally, as well as trying to win games.
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What kind of innings count can we expect for Urias this year?
That is something that’s paramount to us, to get him further along from an innings standpoint and kind of push the envelope with that, and just put him in that much better position going into next year. It’s going to be something we’re constantly talking about and trying to figure out.
Obviously, Julio is an extremely talented pitching prospect whose talent is a little bit ahead of his development. It isn’t often that a guy’s talent puts him in this position, well before he’s built up appropriately to handle a Major League starter’s workload. It’s something that will require us to be creative not just this year, but at least next season as well.
At age 19, how prepared is Urias to control his emotions when he makes his MLB debut?
I think each guy is unique, and it’s one of those things where I don’t think you can say for sure exactly how someone’s going to handle the emotions of fulfilling a lifelong dream and going out there and throwing the first pitch as a Major League pitcher, and the way they’re able to control that throughout that first start. I’ve been around a lot of really, really talented young pitchers who have debuted in different situations, and it’s kind of run the gamut.
But to a man, all of our guys who have worked with Julio rave about his mound presence and just his ability to control his emotions, and just that growth year over year that we’ve seen from him is something that our guys feel confident (will put him in) good position to go out there and compete, and put us in a position to win a game.
So what kind of results are you expecting Friday?
You can do all you can do in the minor leagues, but that last mile probably can only be solved and worked through by getting that experience. … There’s always teachable moments, as there are with any young pitcher coming up, and exactly what that will be I think is a fool’s errand to try to predict on the front end, but we think from a talent standpoint, he is definitely ready to come up and help us win a game.
I’ve been around really good young pitchers who have immediately hit the ground running, I’ve been around really good young pitchers who’ve taken some time to feel their way through it, and we’re just gonna continue to read and react as long as Julio’s up … doing everything we can to continue to put him in the best position to succeed in the long term.
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There’s a lot of fan excitement about Urias’ promotion. How much is there inside the organization?
There’s a little bit of excitement each and every time we bring someone up who’s going to make their Major League debut, and obviously Julio is really excited — and the guys who have worked with him throughout the minor leagues couldn’t be happier. It’s a great organizational moment. He’s a Dodgers sign, developed through our system and debuting in a Dodger uniform. I think that’s a really special thing for a lot of different departments and staffs and people that are involved, that makes it a fun thing for everybody.
Where does Urias’ promotion leave Mike Bolsinger?
We feel really confident that (Bolsinger) can help us win games, and so if that’s not in the rotation, then I would imagine that he’ll help us out of the pen. But we’re just going to kind of feel things out day by day. And again, we’re confident Woody will be able to go on Monday, but having Bols around will be really helpful. and then after that, just figuring out Julio and how to manage that in the short term, because obviously he’s not a guy — whether it’s in Triple-A or the Major Leagues — who can make a start every fifth day from here through the balance of the year, so it’ll be something we’re having conversations about daily.
What happened to Wood?
He felt something in the back of his arm, kind of the bottom of his tricep, in a swing in his start at St. Louis. It was just a little bit more sore after his start in San Diego, so we’re being a little cautious just to get this resolved.
How serious is it?
Talking to Woody yesterday, (he was saying), “Look, I can go Friday.” But that just wasn’t in anyone’s best long-term interests. He’s a competitor and wanted to go, but once we told him we thought the prudent thing to do was to give him a few extra days, he totally agreed with it and I think even was slightly relieved, just to have a few more days to let it calm down and hopefully put it behind us for good.
Is it connected to the arm issues he had early in Spring Training?
They’re totally unrelated. And the fact that Wood’s happened (with his) swing also makes me feel better. In this particular moment in time, you might even get me to be an advocate for the DH in the National League, Obviously kidding …
What’s the status of Ryu?
I think our mindset on Hyun-Jin is as soon as he’s ready to come back, obviously he’s going to come into the rotation. When that would be exactly, I don’t know. We’re just assessing it start to start, and each start has gotten progressively better. The feedback from yesterday was really good, and I saw him last night when he came back after the game — he said he felt great and was really pleased with his offspeed pitches and felt like he had really good feel for his curveball — so it was a very meaningful step forward, and we’ll continue to assess it after his next start.