Dodgers’ Julio Urias starts strong before faltering against Angels
Julio Urias’ biggest mistake may have been that he exhaled.
The 19-year-old Dodgers left-hander lived up to billing as one of baseball’s top pitching prospects in his first spring inning Friday, striking out the side — Geovany Soto, Gregorio Petit and Todd Cunningham of the Angels — with a fastball that was clocked between 92 and 97 mph and a sharp slider.
“The first inning, the adrenaline was flowing and I pitched well,” Urias, a native of Mexico, said through an interpreter. “I tried to relax in the second inning, take a few deep breaths, and it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.”
Jefry Marte singled to left field to open the eighth inning. David Fletcher drove a run-scoring double to left-center. Nick Buss followed with an RBI triple to left-center, and Rafael Ortega walked, part of a three-run rally that gave the Angels an 8-4 win at Camelback Ranch.
“The ball came out of his hand well, and the first inning was really good,” Roberts said. “He was excited, and so he was trying to stay down in the zone, but he elevated too much, and they made him pay.”
Urias, who pitched most of 2015 at double A and made two starts at triple A, does not turn 20 until Aug. 12, but Roberts did not rule out the possibility of him winning the fifth rotation spot this spring.
The Dodgers plan to keep Urias on a strict innings limit, probably something in the 110-inning range for the season, but those could come at the beginning and then be tapered off.
“If he’s throwing well enough and we feel good enough for him to be in that spot,” Roberts said, “it’s realistic.”
The list of Dodgers with minor injuries grew by two when shortstop Corey Seager left Friday’s game after three innings because of a sore left knee and catcher Yasmani Grandal was sidelined by a pair of bruised forearms.
Seager singled in the first and slid on the knee trying to break up a double play. He flied to center in the third and asked Roberts to remain for one more at-bat. The manager nixed that idea.
“When you see the grimaces and him not moving as well as he normally does, we wanted to get him out as quick as possible,” Roberts said. “I don’t know if it was a twist or contusion. We’ll get to the root of it.”
Third baseman Justin Turner, recovering from microsurgery on his left knee, hopes to play in his first spring game as a designated hitter Monday. He has taken 30-35 at-bats in minor league scrimmages.
Infielder Howie Kendrick, out since Monday because of right groin tightness, has been hitting, fielding and running in a straight line but won’t play until he can run the bases at full speed, possibly Monday. Third baseman Alex Guerrero (sore left knee) will be a designated hitter Saturday night.
Vote of confidence
Trayce Thompson has played in all nine exhibition games and has a team-leading 24 at-bats, fueling speculation that the versatile outfielder, acquired from the Chicago White Sox, might push center fielder Joc Pederson for playing time. Pederson hit .178 in the second half of 2015.
“As it stands now, Joc is our center fielder,” Roberts said. “He had a tremendous first half and struggled in the second half, but he’s a plus defender in center field.”
Thompson, who can play all three outfield spots and hit for power, could make the team as a reserve.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna
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