LOS ANGELES — A 20-year-old pitcher opening the season on an advanced Class-A roster in the California League is perfectly normal, exceptional even. After all, the average age for pitchers in the Cal League last year was 23.
But when that 20-year-old is Julio Urias, it’s a little weird, especially since the left-hander is three years removed from dominating in the hitter-friendly circuit.
In a season designed to specifically and artificially limit his innings, Urias began 2017 artificially on the roster of the Class-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, for whom he last pitched (in a non-rehab setting) in 2014 as a 17-year-old. You see, there are no plans to actually have Urias pitch for the Quakes.
Instead, he will next start in Triple-A, likely added to that roster this weekend.
“Julio will make his next start for Oklahoma City,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He will start in the next few days.”
How long Urias will pitch is in question, though it will probably be a short stint. Urias, who threw a side session on Tuesday, hasn’t pitched more than three innings in any outing since spring training began.
“This is more of just where he’s at and built up,” Roberts said. “He’s abbreviated.”
The Dodgers are in a bit of a weird spot with Urias, wanting to make sure he still has plenty in the tank for September and October in the major league rotation, but knowing that given his age and previous workload he can’t remain on schedule for the entire season.
But rather than completely shut Urias down for however long he will be held in the minors, the club plans to keep him reasonably active, pitching at least semi-regularly before they call him up to join the Dodgers, presumably for good.
“We have a lot of people who have studied the biomechanics of pitching and the arm,” Roberts said last week. “With the medical staff, we feel that’s what is the best thing for Julio.”