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Julio Urias joins select group of teenage Dodgers starting pitchers

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Sandy Koufax, back when he was a raw youngster with Brooklyn.
Sandy Koufax, back when he was a raw youngster with Brooklyn.
Photo: The Kidwiler Collection via Getty Images

Julio Urias will appear in his first major league game on Friday, and he will do so more than two months before his 20th birthday. This is a rare thing, so much so that the last Dodgers teenage pitcher was Fernando Valenzuela in relief in September 1980.

The last MLB starter under 20 years old was Felix Hernandez, who made 12 starts at age 19 in 2005.

Then again, Urias has been a rarity since dominating the Midwest League at age 16.

The last Dodgers starting pitcher before his 20th birthday was Dick Calmus on Aug. 23, 1963. In the last 103 years, the Dodgers have only had seven teenage starting pitchers, including Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Here is how the teenagers did in their early starts with the Dodgers.

Dick Calmus

As a rookie in 1963, Calmus appeared in 21 games for the Dodgers, including 20 relief appearances, and put up a 2.66 ERA. He made one start at the end of August, though he was removed in the first inning after allowing four hits, including a two-run home run by Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.

Joe Moeller

A 19-year-old rookie in 1962, Moeller appeared in 19 games for the Dodgers, including 15 starts. Moeller had a 5.25 ERA with more walks (58) than strikeouts (46). His major league debut was a four-inning save, in which he allowed three runs, then in his first start he allowed six runs while recording only four outs. He did get a complete game win in his third appearance, five days later.

Don Drysdale

Big D made his debut for Brooklyn in 1956, and pitched in 13 games before turning 20 in July, including eight starts. He made his major league debut with a scoreless inning of relief on April 17, then six days later made his first start, striking out nine in a complete game, 6-1 win at Philadelphia.


Look at that young face on Don Drysdale! (Photo: Rogers Photo Archive via Getty Images)

Sandy Koufax

One year earlier, the left-handed Koufax was a bonus baby for the World Series winner, appearing in 12 games, including five starts, with nearly as many walks (28) as strikeouts (30). His first start was in his third major league game, and he didn't get out of the fifth inning, with eight walks and four strikeouts, though he only allowed one run. But among his five starts during the season, the 19-year-old Koufax did pitch two shutouts.

Ralph Branca

Branca made one start among his 21 appearances as an 18-year-old rookie in 1944, then made 15 starts at age 19 one year later, putting up a 3.04 ERA in his second season. He was an All-Star by age 21. In that first start, in 1944, Branca allowed seven runs while recording only four outs.

Cal McLish

McLish didn't pitch at 19, as he was in military service during World War II, but he did appear in 23 games, including 13 starts, at age 18 in 1944. He put up a 7.82 ERA as a rookie with twice as many walks (48) as strikeouts (24). As a starter, he allowed 62 runs in 65 innings.

Rex Barney

Barney pitched in nine games at age 18 in 1943, including eight starts. Overall he put up a 6.35 ERA, and like many, many teenagers, had more walks (41) than strikeouts (23).

This group of seven experienced growing pains in the early going, which is to be expected. They made a total of 66 starts, with more walks (239) than strikeouts (204), and a 5.04 ERA.

So if Urias experiences control problems on Friday or in subsequent outings this summer, don't be alarmed. It comes with the territory, relatively uncharted as it is.

Dodgers teenage starting pitchers
Pitcher Year(s) Starts W-L IP H R ER BB K ERA WHIP
Dick Calmus 1963 1 0-1 4 2 2 0 0 27.00 6.000
Joe Moeller 1962 15 6-4 76⅓ 78 51 46 54 41 5.42 1.729
Don Drysdale 1956 8 2-3 48⅓ 49 24 20 15 32 3.72 1.324
Sandy Koufax 1955 5 2-1 33⅓ 23 7 6 21 26 1.62 1.320
Ralph Branca 1944-45 16 5-7 108⅔ 80 51 44 78 67 3.64 1.454
Cal McLish 1944 13 3-8 65 82 62 62 35 19 8.58 1.800
Rex Barney 1943 8 2-1 43 33 30 30 36 19 6.28 1.605