Dodgers’ Julio Urías set to start NLCS Game 4, ready or not

These playoffs have made a mockery of traditional starting pitchers, so to say that the Dodgers have their rotation lined up the way they want could be wishful thinking.

The Dodgers have had a total of 27 strikeouts from their starting pitchers in the first three games of the National League Championship series, mostly not by design.

But the Dodgers, trailing two-to-one in the best-of-seven series, have Max Scherzer lined up for Game 6 and Walker Buehler for Game 7.

That assumes the Dodgers get there.

They used nine pitchers to win Game 3 on Tuesday. All nine Dodgers relievers entered the game or warmed up in the relieving pen. At this point, the last thing the Dodgers want is to play Game 5 on Thursday – their scheduled reliever box game – like an elimination game with a depleted box.

This puts Julio Urías back in the October spotlight. After signing up for his final appearance in the eighth inning of Game 2, and for his previous appearance in the third inning, the Dodgers will ask baseball’s lone 20-game winner to start a game on Wednesday. They would really, really, really like him to go deep into the game.

Scherzer made his last start on two days off, after an appearance in relief. It didn’t go well.

Urías begins Wednesday with two days of rest, after an onset of relief.

He told the Dodgers he was ready to go. The Dodgers could have given him an extra day off, but manager Dave Roberts said there would be “no way of knowing” the possible profit. Urías closed the 2020 World Series on two days off, and that was after a start of 80 throws.

At least in October, the Dodgers turned Urías into a pitching version of Kiké Hernández or Chris Taylor. Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw made occasional playoff relief appearances, but Urías is a playoff utility pitcher: starter, loose inning, man of setup, closer.

The Dodgers have carefully respected pitch limits and innings limits with Urías, until this season. They told him he was a starting pitcher, period, with no limits. He pitched 186 innings this season, more than half of his previous professional record.

With a top three from Buehler, Scherzer and Kershaw, the Dodgers were ready to deploy Urías as a utility pitcher in October. Then Kershaw got injured again and the Dodgers always deployed Urías as a utility pitcher.

The Dodgers first called him at 19. He’s 25 now. He’s proud to become the starting pitcher he and the team imagined he could be.

“Absolutely,” Roberts said. “But he’s also proud to help us win. He wants – and he’s also proud of, “We called his number there and I want to be the guy; I am the best option. It’s kind of the way you look at it.

Scott Boras, Urias’ agent, doesn’t hesitate to let a team know when he’s upset with how a team treats a star client.

“If you ask me,” Boras said on Tuesday, “I’m not upset by anything that cuts down on the number of innings Julio throws.

“I looked at him in a protective sense. I’m not looking at him to say, ‘Oh, he’s not the front line guy.’ “

Urias pitched 55 innings in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, then more than three times as many innings this season. His career total of innings, playoffs included: 473.

Kershaw and Fernando Valenzuela also delivered 20 winning seasons for the Dodgers at the age of 25. At that age, Kershaw had pitched 959 innings, Valenzuela 1,348.

The concept of inning limits in October does not hit the mark, certainly not in the clubhouse.

In 2012, in his first full season after Tommy John’s surgery, the Washington Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg in September, so there were no issues in October. Strasbourg have been on the all-star team three times and signed a $ 245 million contract.

In 2015, in his first full season after Tommy John’s surgery, the New York Mets didn’t stop Matt Harvey for the playoffs. The Mets made their first World Series appearance in 15 years, but Harvey hasn’t been a league average pitcher in any season.

“In New York they haven’t stopped the player,” said Boras, who represents Strasbourg and Harvey.

“The player will never say no. You are in a locker room. You are trying to win. You want to be a good teammate. The pressure is way too great.

Scherzer is also a Boras customer. On Sunday, two days after an onset of relief, Scherzer started and said his arm felt “dead.”

Boras said: “I don’t think anybody in my position who represents a starting pitcher wants them to throw in relief. It’s a routine disruption, and routine disruption scares you. Now we’ve seen in the playoffs that teams do that. The players always want to do it, because they want to win.

“I never blame a player for wanting to win. I know this increases the risk.

There is no guarantee. The World Series championship flag fluttering at Dodger Stadium is a testament to the Dodgers’ success in hitting, throwing and managing risk. Playoffs included, Urías is 196 innings this season. Bringing him to 201 on Wednesday, with a win to his name, would be a big win for the agent, pitcher and the team.

Not necessarily in that order.


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