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Dodgers prospect Julio Urias headed to bullpen in minor leagues

Julio Urias made eight starts for the Dodgers this season but the organization wants him to work as a reliever at triple-A Oklahoma City in case the big league team needs him in the bullpen this year.
(Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images)

To curtail the innings of Dodgers prospect Julio Urias and expand his versatility for later in the season, the team will assign him a role pitching out of the bullpen for triple-A Oklahoma City. Urias also will make some starts, Manager Dave Roberts said, but the team will administer strict pitch counts to those outings.

The more intriguing aspect of Urias’ assignment — which is still being developed by the organization’s player-development staff, Roberts said — is a relief apprenticeship. The Dodgers want Urias to know the quirks of bullpen life, like how to warm up on short notice and perform in short bursts, in case the organization needs him in the bullpen this year.

“It makes sense,” Roberts said before Saturday’s game against the Padres. “It’s something that he wants. He feels comfortable. We, as an organization, do [too].”

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The Dodgers optioned Urias, a 19-year-old left-hander, to the minors this week after he made eight starts for the big league club. He struck out 44 batters in 36 1/3 innings, but posted a 4.95 earned-run average. He has thrown 77 1/3 innings this season and has never thrown more than 87 2/3 innings in a season.

Roberts suggested the possibility of using Urias as a reliever is a real one.

“At some point, it is an option,” Roberts said. “And it’s all contingent on starting pitching. If we need a starting pitcher, that changes things as well.”

But the Dodgers maintain confidence about several pitchers returning from injury by next month. The team has yet to reveal a timetable for Clayton Kershaw (herniated disk), but he played catch again on Saturday, expanding to 120 feet.

Both Brett Anderson (back surgery) and Alex Wood (elbow impingement) have graduated to throwing bullpen sessions. Roberts expects Anderson to return by mid-August, and Wood could arrive at a similar time.


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