By Jon Weisman
Tonight’s starting pitcher, Julio Urías, has thrown 58 professional innings this season. Dave Roberts said Thursday that the plan was to give Urias two more starts, then evaluate.
Most interpreted this as Roberts saying that Urías would be shut down in the manner of Ross Stripling, who hasn’t pitched in a game since May. To be clear, though, that wasn’t stated explicitly by Roberts, who simply said, “we’ll go from there.”
Last year, Urías threw 80 1/3, and the year before, a career-high 87 2/3. Even in the unlikely event of two complete games, Urías would still be at 76 innings on the year. Two six-inning outings would put Urías at 70. Presumably, Urías can go incrementally above the 80-plus inning range that he has previously reached.
So the question would be whether it makes sense to use all those innings now, while the Dodgers wait for the return of Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood from the disabled list (and longer down the road, Brett Anderson). Or do they have Urías take the break, and the ramp him up again in the second half of the season, when the rotation might be more crowded — not that there couldn’t be other setbacks.
The Dodgers are giving little indication that the bullpen is in their plans for Urías. Perhaps if there’s a midseason break, that allows Urías to go farther beyond the innings limit than if all his starts come in an unbroken line. (That’s just something I’ve been curious about but haven’t asked — it’s not rooted in any actual, you know, fact.)
Then there’s the potential of Frankie Montas, who has a 2.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 22 strikeouts in 16 minor-league innings this year, arriving sooner than later. Coming back from a stint on the 60-day disabled list following rib surgery, Montas reached 69 pitches in his most recent start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. By the time Urías finishes his next two appearances, Montas should be ready to take his place — that is, if Montas hasn’t been called up sooner.
The 23-year-old Montas made his 15-inning MLB debut with the White Sox last year, and also pitched 112 innings for Double-A Birmingham.
On Thursday, McCarthy made his second minor-league rehab start following Tommy John surgery, striking out four in three innings and 48 pitches for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He gave up a two-run home run in the first inning, then allowed two singles the rest of the way, retiring eight of the final 10 batters.
(In that game, right fielder Yasiel Puig also made a seven-inning rehab appearance, and tested his hamstring in the first inning when he singled, stole second and went to third on a throwing error. Puig later walked and came around the bases to score in the fourth inning, and added an RBI groundout in the fifth. Roberts has said the Dodgers expect to activate Puig from the disabled list on Monday.)
Ryu is scheduled to make his second consecutive rehab start tonight after an 18-day hiatus, expecting to go in the neighborhood of four innings and 60 pitches. Ryu has an ERA of 1.50 and WHIP of 0.92 in 12 minor-league rehab innings over the past month.
Wood, whose placement on the disabled list created the opening for Urías to make his MLB debut in late May, said Thursday he will begin his throwing program next week. Roberts noted that while Wood wouldn’t have to start from scratch as if it were the beginning of Spring Training, it would take him some time to ramp up. J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News elaborates on this, saying that Wood is targeting a July return.
Kenta Maeda, who was hit Wednesday by a line drive in the leg, showed no lingering effects and is expected to take his next turn in the rotation Sunday.
Down in the minors, Zach Lee pitched seven innings Thursday for Oklahoma City, allowing two runs with four strikeouts. Jose De Leon, who has made three-inning starts of 37 and 47 pitches since returning from the minor-league disabled list June 7, is scheduled to start Saturday for Oklahoma City, followed by rising right-hander Brock Stewart, who went 5 2/3 innings in his Triple-A debut June 13, on Sunday and then Jharel Cotton on Monday. Cary Osborne wrote a day ago about Cotton’s recent progress.
My guess is Urias gets shut down after these 2 starts through July, Then works sparingly in August in the minors, and called back up to the majors in September, and depending on the situation how he’ll be used from there on out.