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2023 Dodgers in review: Kyle Hurt

Dodgers defeat Padres 11-2 at Dodger Stadium Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

Kyle Hurt’s time with the 2023 Dodgers was brief, but he made one hell of a first impression.

Hurt started the season as part of the fireballing rotation in Double-A Tulsa, and found his way to Triple-A Oklahoma City in early August. Hurt in the minors this year had a 3.91 ERA and 3.00 xFIP in 92 innings, with 152 strikeouts and 44 walks. Hurt’s 39.2-percent strikeout rate was second among all Dodgers minor leaguers with at least 40 innings, trailing only Emmet Sheehan (41 percent), who made it to the majors in June and earned a spot on the NLDS roster.

Hurt’s turn with Los Angeles came on September 12, when the Dodgers needed a fresh arm, and he pitched the final two innings of a blowout win over the Padres. But despite the score — up seven at the time he entered — Hurt’s task was not easy.

He faced Fernando Tatis Jr. (113 wRC+ in 2023), Manny Machado (114 wRC+), and Juan Soto (155 wRC+) and Hurt retired them all in short order, needing only nine pitches to get through the eighth inning.

In the ninth, Hurt was even better, striking out all three batters he faced. He finished off Garrett Cooper and Matthew Batten on changeups, and got Trent Grisham swinging on a 95.9-mph fastball.

Only eight times in the 140-year history of the franchise has a Dodgers pitcher struck out at least half of their batters faced in their major league debut, and only three of them had as many as the three strikeouts Hurt racked him in his initial MLB offering. Nick Robertson did so earlier in 2023, on June 7, nearly two months before he was traded to the Red Sox in the Kiké Hernández deal. Bob O’Brien, a left-hander out of Texas A&M, whiffed four in two innings in his debut in 1971, also against the Padres at Dodger Stadium, allowing only a solo home run to Cito Gaston.

I do want to make too much out of Hurt’s debut, as it was only one game, but the first thing I thought of was Chan Ho Park on the final day of the regular season in 1995. The Dodgers were playing the Padres at Qualcomm Stadium, and I was a sophomore at UCSD and went to the game. This was not Park’s debut, as he pitched three times in relief between 1994 and 1995 before getting the start in the regular season finale.

Park pitched only three innings, but looked electric, striking out five of his 10 batters faced, definitely turning heads among the Dodgers fans in the stands. He allowed a solo home run to former Dodger Jody Reed for the only run against him. Park was just 22 at the time, but was a starting pitcher for the next decade and pitched 15 more years in the majors, including a return trip to Los Angeles as a reliever in 2008.

Hurt is 25, and while it would be unfair to project that kind of future for him, there is a lot to be excited about going forward. The Dodgers acquired the USC right-hander in February 2021 from the Marlins for Dylan Floro. Alex Vesia also came to Los Angeles in the deal and has been a contributor in the Dodgers bullpen for most of the last three seasons. In our news writeup of the trade, I did not put Hurt’s name in the headline:

Headline from February 12, 2021 when the Dodgers traded with the Marlins: “Dodgers trade Dylan Floro to Marlins for Alex Vesia & prospect.” The prospect was Kyle Hurt.

Hurt is part of a cadre of young Dodgers pitchers on the 40-man roster who could see time in the majors in 2024, either starting or in relief. He’ll have a chance to make an impact beyond just the one game, and make headlines of his own.

2023 particulars

Age: 25

Stats: 1 game, 2 innings, 3 strikeouts

Salary: $720,000, pro-rated for his time in the majors (roughly $77,419)

Roster status

Hurt was optioned back to Triple-A on September 13, the day after his debut, but with 19 days left in the season he just missed 20 days on optional assignment, so not only did he not use an option year but he gets credit for major league service time for all of those days, 20 in all including September 12.

Hurt has three option years remaining.