By Jon Weisman
Julio Urías is officially scheduled to take the mound at Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday and become the youngest starting pitcher in MLB playoff history.
At 20 years and 68 days for Game 4, Urías will break the record held by Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen (1984 ALCS Game 2) by 107 days.
Saberhagen received a no-decision after allowing two earned runs in eight innings. Five times has a 20-year-old starting pitcher won a playoff game: Bullet Joe Bush (1913 World Series Game 3), Jim Palmer (1966 World Series Game 2) and Fernando Valenzuela (1981 NLDS Game 4, NLCS Game 5 and World Series Game 3).
Urías will be starting on the 35th anniversary of the day his iconic predecessor, Valenzuela, pitched 8 2/3 innings the day the Dodgers clinched the ’81 NL pennant. Urías said the waiting between appearances — he has only pitched in one game this month — has not made him too antsy.
“It’s the playoffs, so I have to be ready,” Urías said this afternoon, shortly before the announcement was made official by his manager, Dave Roberts. “If before, I knew I had to give my best, I know that now I have to give even more, because whatever I do, if I make a mistake it could cost us a big game.
“You just have to be prepared when you’re called upon. Yeah, you feel anxious and sometimes you feel the pressure, but that’s something you have to learn how to deal with.”
Urías already became the fourth youngest postseason pitcher ever when he pitched in relief in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on October 13 — and after his two shutout innings and the Dodgers’ comeback against the Nationals, the youngest ever credited with a win.
Including the NLDS, Urías has thrown 124 professional innings in 2016, a 41 percent increase over his previous career high. On the bright side, those innings have been spread across seven months, with only 16 since September 1.
“I think that they’ve managed the best that they can, and I thank the team for that,” Urías said. “Ever since I’ve been with the organization, since I was in the minor leagues, they’ve been watching my innings and watching my pitch counts. Now that I’m here, it continues, and I just have to be prepared for whatever comes and try to make the best of any opportunity.
“I feel good, and I feel healthy, which is the most important part.”
Roberts said that the Dodgers are more concerned with stressful innings Wednesday than a flat pitch limit.
“It’s going to be a big game,” Roberts said. “If he’s throwing the baseball the way we expect, then I’m not afraid to push him to help us win a baseball game.
“I think that we expect him to just go out there and compete, use his pitch mix and go after these guys. Give us a chance to win a baseball game. It’s what Julio’s done all year long.”