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Julio Urías is trusting his stuff

“I haven’t seen a curveball quite like that,” said catcher Austin Barnes

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Los Angeles Dodgers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Julio Urías had a career-best 11 strikeouts on Tuesday against the Mariners, six of them finished off by what he is calling his slurve.

He talked during spring training about making the change during last season, changing from a more traditional 12-to-6 curveball to a harder pitch with side-to-side movement.

“I haven’t seen a curveball quite like that,” catcher Austin Barnes said Tuesday. “He’s coming out way on the side, and he’s landing it at a really high rate. It does different things all the time.”

Ben Clemens at FanGraphs summarized the changes Urías made to his repertoire:

Julio Urías throws a “curveball” that looks like a frisbee of a slider. He’s used it to replace both his slider and his curveball, and he’s taken up the old curveball usage pattern — early in counts to steal strikes — while also using it in counts where he previously favored sliders. Pitchers love adding new pitches. For Urías, subtracting and simplifying is the new rage.

The change came roughly around the last time Urías pitched in Seattle. That start was a mixed bag for the left-hander, recording strikeouts for all five of his outs, but also allowing four hits and a walk. He escaped having only allowed one run, but was pulled in the second inning after 52 pitches.

Since then, in 16 games (11 starts) including the postseason, Urías is 8-0 with a save, a 2.68 ERA, and 82 strikeouts against only 19 walks in 80⅔ innings.

“I know that I have really good stuff, and to have confidence to attack the hitters,” Urías said Tuesday, through an interpreter. “I just trusted my stuff.”

That stuff also includes a changeup, one Urías used to finish off four strikeouts in his other seven-inning gem this season, on April 3 at Coors Field. Batters are 0-for-23 in at-bats that end on his changeup this season, with eight strikeouts, including two on Tuesday in Seattle despite throwing the pitch only eight times against the Mariners.

On the season, Urías has thrown his changeup 18.8 percent of the time, his highest usage of the pitch since 2017. He’s thrown his slurve 27 percent.

“I know they’re both quality pitches,” Barnes said. “He was just spinning it really well, and I didn’t think they were picking it up. We started using the changeup a little bit later, the second time through the lineup, and it was effective.”

Links & notes

  • The Dodgers had two hits, the Mariners had one, and the four combined total bases are the fewest ever in a regular season interleague game, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
  • Luke Raley talked about crying when getting traded by the Dodgers in 2018, then being elated once he returned in 2020, writes Pedro Moura at The Athletic.
  • Yasiel Puig has reportedly agreed to play with Veracruz in the Mexican League, per Enrique Rojas of ESPN.
  • Emma Baccelierri at Sports Illustrated wrote about the rise of position players pitching in recent years: “If this was once an unusual flash of delight, it’s now an increasingly common nod toward simple practicality.”
  • The Dodgers handed out a few rings this week. First, Vin Scully got his seventh Dodgers championship ring, then Kiké Hernández got his delivered (the Dodgers don’t play the Red Sox this season):