The Dodgers do not know how long they will be without Julio Urias after his arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic battery Monday night. The left-handed pitcher was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday as Major League Baseball investigates the case. A leave is for up to seven days, but the commissioner’s office can extend it, according to baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.
Urias could serve a suspension. He could get reinstated without one. He could return within the seven days. He could return in months. He could have pitched in his final game as a Dodger. It all depends on whether criminal charges are filed and the commissioner office’s determination on punishment after evaluating the investigation’s findings — and whether the Dodgers will welcome him back. Those decisions could take weeks.
For now, this is what we know with certainty: Urias is not on the Dodgers’ active roster and the club must move forward without him. How does his absence affect the Dodgers on the field? Perhaps not as dramatically as one might think.
The 22-year-old Urias was effective as a reliever, a role he was switched to in mid-April because the Dodgers wanted to better control his workload after he succeeded in it during the postseason last fall. He allowed just two runs in 8 2/3 innings out of the bullpen and notched his first two career saves, including a three-inning effort in his final outing last Friday.
He essentially was serving two roles, long relief and backup closer, pitching both multiple and high-leverage innings. He also was often unavailable because the Dodgers would not pitch him on consecutive days. It’s been a difficult combination for manager Dave Roberts to juggle.
Urias began the season as a starter, but that wasn’t the plan. The Dodgers entered the year determined to limit his workload less than two years after major shoulder surgery. Having him start games at the major league level, they determined, was not sustainable. But injuries to Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill pushed the team to include Urias in the rotation. He made four starts before he was moved to the bullpen.
Left-handed reliever Caleb Ferguson was activated from the injured list Friday. Tony Cingrani, another left-hander currently on rehab assignment, could join the club by the end of the month.
Without Urias, the Dodgers still have Ross Stripling to serve as a long reliever. Like Urias, injuries prompted the Dodgers to place Stripling in the rotation to begin the season before shifting him to the bullpen. Stripling has made three relief appearances, allowing three runs in one-third of an inning in his first outing, and hasn’t pitched since May 5 — a long break for a reliever.
At the back end, the Dodgers won’t have Urias to spell closer Kenley Jansen as he did last Friday. Jansen tallied his 14th save in 16 chances Wednesday, but most of his appearances have included turbulence. At least one runner has reached base in 14 of his 20 outings. He’s allowed one run or more in eight of them. He’s given up 11 runs (nine earned) overall, the same number he surrendered over 65 appearances in 2017.
The Dodgers won’t have the security blanket of the hard-throwing Urias to give Jansen a breather, at least not for the time being.
If Urias does return this season, his time as a reliever could be limited anyway. The club was strongly considering converting Urias back into a starter by the end of the regular season and unleashing the left-hander in October after curtailing his burden all summer.