This afternoon the Dodgers will open their Spring Training schedule at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona against the Chicago White Sox. On the mound will be ace Clayton Kershaw to be followed on Sunday and Monday by Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. Baring injury, they are also expected to pitch the first three games of the regular season April 3-5 at Dodger Stadium against the San Diego Padres. However, who starts the fourth game of that series is causing a lot of debate this spring.
On pure talent the logical choice for that spot is 20-year old uber prospect Julio Urias. However, when asked about him the Dodgers are non-committal. They mention “extended” spring training and limited innings per start without saying exactly what that would look like. For those looking for some sort of guideline as to what Urias innings limit might be they can just look across the room at his teammate Kershaw. In 2008, when Kershaw was also 20 years old, he threw a combined 169 innings.
Now I’ll admit this is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. How can teams expect pitchers to throw 180-200 innings in the big leagues if they’ve never done it before in the minors? With the amount of money that teams invest in these arms, wouldn’t it make more sense to build them up in the minor leagues, to see them throw 180+ innings there and then know that they can do it when they bring them up.
In four seasons in the Dodgers organization, Urias has thrown 54 1/3, 87 2/3, 80 1/3, and 122 innings. That’s only 344 1/3 innings in four years. To constantly expect pitchers to make 30-40 inning jumps from year to year at 20, 21, 22 years old could be more risky than the simple wear and tear of the innings themselves.
I believe Urias should be put in the rotation from day 1 mainly because it gives the Dodgers the best chance to win. But, also because it allows Urias the chance to get used to riggers of the full major league season, the six month grind of taking the ball every fifth day and the preparation that goes with it. If they want to limit him to five innings a start (160 innings over 32 starts) I understand that, but I wouldn’t be hard and fast on that either. I mean, what if he’s only thrown 50 or so pitches through five? I just think these things should be a fluid situation that should be taken start by start without all the strict limitations on innings and pitches. Just let the kid pitch!