Dodgers: Julio Urias is the Bullpen Hero the Dodgers Need
As the Dodgers exited the field, deflated from their fifth straight loss, the elephant in the room loomed large, hanging over the heads of the defeated. The Dodgers have struggled from the onset of August and that is in large part due to an unimpressive showing from their bullpen. A showing that has rendered losses and blown games, a showing that requires an immediate solution.
The solution to such a problem is not simple. Some argue that the cure to the illness can be found in an arm not currently on the roster while others, more practically argue that the best possible solutions can be found within the organization. The solution for the August bullpen slump is none other than Julio Urias.
Urias and his story began long before 2018, a year in which he has fought hard to come back from one of baseball’s most serious injuries. His story begins in the minors, as a prodigy, and as the future of Dodger baseball
The teenager progressed fast and the audiences slowly grew alongside the boy who was here to change the game.
By 17, Urias was walking the halls of Rancho Cucamonga, dazzling crowds in the small city in Southern California. There he broke records. Urias was the youngest in the California League by a lot and he was one of the best there despite the age gap.
In the next two years, the southpaw being fast-tracked to the major leagues made his way to Triple-A where he was unstoppable. Urias set scoreless streaks that made history, strikeout records in his first few games and put up more numbers that allowed fans to sit and marvel at the prodigy’s talents.
He debuted. In his rookie season, Urias did well, pitching to the tune of a 3.39 ERA in 77 innings with 84 strikeouts, all but confirming he was here, here to stay. But, from there, things went downhill quickly.
Impressive numbers turned to disastrous ones, his velocity took a hit and the young man, now 20 years old, was hardly the same pitcher he was just a year ago.
The cause of the downfall was likely not a slump but rather the serious injury he was dealing with, a torn anterior capsule, the equivalent to a torn UCL but in the shoulder. It would require surgery, a serious one at that, and he would hit the shelf for the next one and a half seasons.
The DL time went by quickly and four years after the 17-year-old Urias debuted in the Cal-League with the Quakes, he was back yet again, this time 22 years old, and now, for rehab.
The rehab went well and he was happy with his results. His once upper 90s fastball is now in the low to mid-90s but all of it felt irrelevant on the night that Urias returned to a competitive mound. But, that night, while a momentous occasion for Urias, it was a disaster for the Dodgers.
Kenley Jansen went down. The famous four words recited before the absolute collapse of a bullpen that has been spotty, to begin with in 2018. This was a bullpen that even with Jansen in uniform received no help at the deadline and in August, it showed its ugly face perhaps a result of the season, perhaps as a result of the lack of help.
The pen’s ERA in August jumped to well over six. The disastrous numbers mean Urias will need to come back and re-harness the power he had long ago to be a hero.
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Urias being the savior of the bullpen is not far-fetched. He showed a prowess of sorts in the role in the past both in the majors in the minors in a move that was highly criticized by Dodger fans. But, the move to pen so long ago could very well have been an unknowing audition of sorts for his role this year.
Urias was a great pitcher to begin with but his plus plus pitches have fallen to average or below since his injury. There is nothing to suggest that he will not regain form with time but in the major leagues, pitches that do not play well get hit hard especially when they are seen more than one time through in a game. That alone makes Urias a poor option to start.
Second is longevity. While he may have the mindset, Urias does not have the arm strength or the built up stamina to cover too many innings and as a bullpen pitcher, specifically a lefty specialist, Urias will be controlled and limited in the amount he throws.
But, more than anything, putting Urias back in the pen is just a new face in a time that could certainly use some change. By just placing the 22-year-old back in a major league role, the Dodgers could see a luck change, and they are running out of time for good fortune.
The moral of the story here is that Urias has had it rough. There is no doubt that his health comes first but when the day comes that he can pitch from a bullpen, the Dodgers should deeply consider moving him to the majors just solely to get a new face and arm into a situation that really needs one.