The biggest news out of the Dodgers’ 5-3 Spring Training victory over Oakland Wednesday was easily Julio Urias. Showing no sign of wear and tear from his shoulder surgery in 2017, the young lefty cruised through a 1-2-3 inning, ending it by striking out the powerful Matt Chapman on a 96-MPH fastball.
While it’s just one inning, it’s nonetheless something to be excited about. Especially with concern over Clayton Kershaw’s shoulder, Urias showed ace-like stuff at a time when he could very well need to be in the rotation from the start. Should Kershaw turn out just fine, you can never have too much pitching, and having him as depth will be reassuring.
With that in mind, it has to be said: Dave Roberts’ decision to add Urias to the playoff roster last October deserves widespread recognition and praise. Urias stated his unexpected playoff performance gave him a huge confidence boost, and has added to his momentum going into Spring Training.
If it needs to be repeated, Urias only had three regular season appearances in 2018. Especially given the severity of his injury the year before, it was widely seen as unrealistic to use him the playoffs. Then, out of nowhere, Roberts swapped him in for the NLCS in lieu of Scott Alexander. Despite giving up a big home run in game two, he vindicated it by winning the 13-inning game four. He was also the pitcher who, with help from Chris Taylor, got the series’ biggest out:
Whenever I factor a player’s postseason outings into a current assessment or projection, I realize that it’s not always sound. The playoffs are only ever a small sample size, and don’t necessarily reflect a player’s overall ability, especially going forward.
In this case, however, I feel it has clear merit because last October tested Urias in a way he didn’t necessarily need, and he aced it anyway. Rather than let his young ace rest easy during October, Roberts effectively gave him another month of rehab with high stakes. If anything, it might have been a necessity given how long Urias had been away from the majors.
Like many fans, I am hesitant to defend any decision made by Dave Roberts after the WS game four debacle. But even the staunchest Roberts critic should recognize the brilliance of adding Urias to the NLCS and WS rosters. It was a gamble, for sure, but it paid off with a National League pennant in 2018. If Urias blossoms in the rotation in 2019, it’ll pay off a second time.