Nearly 11 months since undergoing career-altering surgery on his left shoulder, Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias believes he is close to pitching off a mound again.
"We're at the point where the trainers are able to start planning out when I can actually get on the mound," Urias said through his interpreter, Jesus Quinonez, on Friday afternoon at Monterrey Stadium. "I know that it's something that is in the near-future. And that makes me very happy."
The Dodgers have not outlined a timetable for Urias, outside of vague pronouncements from manager Dave Roberts, who indicated this week that the Dodgers "were counting on" Urias to appear in the second half of 2018.
Urias made five starts in the majors last season before an examination revealed a tear in the anterior capsule of his shoulder. The procedure usually requires 12 to 14 months of rehab before a player can return to the field.
Urias has been cleared to play catch at a distance of 100 feet, Roberts said.
"Julio has been working really hard," Roberts said. "Physically, he's in great shape."
Urias accompanied the team as something of an ambassador. He grew up in Culiacan, about 1,000 miles west of Monterrey. Fernando Valenzuela also made the trip. Valenzuela threw out the first pitch before Friday's game against the San Diego Padres.
In 2016, Urias became the first teenager to start for the Dodgers since Valenzuela debuted in 1980. He was 19, with an electric fastball and preternatural feel for his offspeed pitches. His talent was precocious, but his body was unprepared; Urias struggled to adjust to the rigors of pitching every five days in the majors.
Urias went 5-2 as a rookie with a 3.39 earned-run average. He started a game in the postseason. He figured to be a bright spot in the team's rotation for years to come.
Except Urias never found a comfort zone in 2017. In his five outings, he walked more batters than he struck out. His torn capsule created a sizable hurdle on his journey to prominence.
The Dodgers set modest expectations for Urias in 2018. When he arrived at Camelback Ranch this spring, team officials indicated he would not be ready to pitch off a mound before camp broke. But that milestone may be soon approaching.
"I'm very happy, very excited," Urias said. "Things have been progressing. I'm starting to get a little more clarity, and that really excites me."
Weather might affect Hill on Sunday
The Dodgers are tentatively scheduled to activate Rich Hill (cracked fingernail, finger infection) from the disabled list for Sunday's series finale. But with the humid weather, the team is concerned the climate might open up blisters on Hill's pitching hand.
Hill played catch before Friday's game and reported no issues. The Dodgers may be forced to alter their pitching schedule, if they feel the elements would not do Hill any favors.
"It's something on the forefront of our mind," Roberts said.
Turner still ‘couple weeks’ away
All-Star third baseman Justin Turner (fractured wrist) began taking swings off a tee last week. He could take batting practice on the field with his teammates this weekend in Mexico. Even so, he still must complete a few days on a rehabilitation assignment, and he has not been cleared to play in games.
"To get him back with us, within the next couple weeks is fair," Roberts said. "But to get everybody back together, it's going to be a while. It's going to be a long time."
Roberts was referring to Corey Seager, who will miss the rest of the season because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow.