LOS ANGELES — One of the treats of Fan Fest on Saturday at Dodger Stadium was seeing both Julio Urias and Andrew Toles wearing Dodgers uniforms for the first time since May.
Urias is still rehabbing after undergoing shoulder surgery in June to repair his left anterior capsule. The initial diagnosis of 12-14 months would suggest a return some time after the All-Star break in 2018, and though that seems right Urias said on Saturday a specific timetable is far from his mind.
“There is a goal but I don’t think about that. I think about it more as a day-to-day thing,” Urias said. “I worry about the pain not hurting every day, feeling healthy day to day, and getting healthy. Hopefully we can reach that goal. Right now I’m not thinking about that.”
Given his major league success to date — the left-hander has a 3.86 ERA and 3.53 FIP in 100⅓ major league innings — it’s easy to forget just how young Urias still is. At nearly 21 years, six months old he remains younger than all but seven of David Hood’s top 30 Dodgers prospects this season. There is the luxury of time for Urias.
To date the only throwing Urias has done has been throwing with a sock on his arm, more going through the motions than anything. He said Saturday that he hopes to begin a throwing program soon, though the southpaw is not expected to throw off a pitching mound at any time during spring training.
“It’s certainly possible, but until he starts to clear some real significant hurdles it’s hard to see him out there,” general manager Farhan Zaidi.
Toles is on the comeback trail as well, returning from surgery to repair a torn right ACL in May. He might be limited at the start of spring training but could be ready to go at full strength by opening day, if not soon after.
“He’s a dynamic player. He was terrific for us in ’16,” Zaidi said. “We anticipate there is going to be a little bit rust after going that long without facing live pitching, but we’re excited to get him into games and see him add a different element to this team.
Toles in 2017 hit .271/.314/.458 with five home runs in 102 plate appearances, and started all 19 games against left-handed pitching before he got hurt, playing both left and center field. He will be fighting for playing time in the outfield with Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez, and maybe even Matt Kemp.
“That was a big loss for us. But the bat, the athleticism is very exciting for us,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It just adds to that competition, certainly.”
The Dodgers remain in contact with Chase Utley for a possible return. The 39-year-old veteran has worked out a few times at Dodger Stadium this offseason even though he is a free agent, and even went on a team-sponsored trip to Dubai in December.
Zaidi cited Utley’s relationships with several in the organization as well as “his stature in the game,” though a return for a fourth season in Los Angeles isn’t a sure thing.
“We know what he means in this clubhouse,” Zaidi said. “We also have some young players that we need at-bats for and some opportunities, and second base is one of those options.”
Kemp, if he is still with the team, would be limited to the corner outfield spots.
“I see him in left field,” Roberts said. “But he still has the ability to spell Yasiel [Puig] and play right field.”
Puig will be the regular in right field with Chris Taylor in center field. Taylor could play some infield but Roberts said for now he would play regularly in center field, though he acknowledged “things can happen” that could change things.
As seen on Saturday at Fan Fest, here are the uniform numbers of some new Dodgers:
Tom Koehler 55
Henry Owens 59
Dylan Baker 71
Scott Alexander 75
The Dodgers have five starting pitchers under contract — Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu — which leaves Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart and Walker Buehler as the next in line. All three have minor league options. Stripling and Stewart could conceivably see time as relief pitchers in the majors, though that trio will be stretched out as starting pitchers during spring training.
“As we all know you can never have enough starting pitching. We’ll take the necessary steps to stretch them out early and build them up and see how spring training plays out,” Roberts said. “You can always taper them back a little bit. At the outset you want them to be stretched out.”
Stripling has done both roles in his two major league seasons, starting 14 of his 22 games as a rookie then pitching 47 games in relief in 2017.
“Just a couple years ago all it took was a couple injuries and I was in the rotation to start the season,” Stripling said. “I’m going in there and expecting to fight for any role I can get. It’s always easier to come down than build up.”
Stripling was one of six Dodgers to get married this offseason. He went to five of the six weddings — only missing Ryu’s ceremony in Korea — plus two more weddings of friends. Several teammates were at these events, and they even set up an informal workout at one of them.
“The morning of Joc’s wedding, a bunch of us went to Gold’s Gym in Santa Barbara. Kershaw, JT, Kiké, myself, Joc. Alex Wood. Everyone was there,” Stripling said. “I’m not sure how many other teams would do that. There is a sense of unfinished business.”