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Julio Urias is healthy and ready to help the Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Julio Urias is still only 22 years old.
Signed five days after his 16th birthday, Urias seemed to be a teenage prodigy forever. He made his big-league debut at 19, the youngest starting pitcher to debut with the Dodgers since 1943.
Precocious as he was, the road has been rocky since. Handled with care, his workload was closely monitored and he found himself shuttling between the big leagues and Triple-A, shut down entirely at times by the Dodgers. Despite their best efforts at protecting him, a shoulder injury required major surgery in 2017.
That was enough to sideline him for 13 months. He returned late last season, made three appearances with the Dodgers as a September callup, then surprisingly made their postseason roster for the NLCS and World Series.
There is so much history behind Urias this spring that it even makes him feel far older than 22.
“Yeah, sometimes,” he said with a slight smile, an interpreter relaying his response. “But what can I do?”
That is one of the questions the Dodgers need to answer this spring – what can he do for them?
“He’s had a different, sort of unique path – given his advanced abilities, the injury piece of things. So it’s been a little different,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But I think right now as we stand here today, it’s to build him up as a starter. So many things can potentially happen and we don’t know what will happen.
“He’s not that guy that’s a full-go yet. How we can preserve things and save bullets and get him ready for a season, to have him ready for the big leagues certainly at some point, that’s the balance.”
Roberts said Urias will – stop me if you’ve heard this before – definitely have an innings limit this season. Even including his unexpected postseason workload (6 1/3 innings), Urias pitched just 22 innings after returning from his shoulder rehab in late July.
“Julio is a special player,” Roberts said. “He helped us last year with some big innings. With him, we just have to be mindful that his last couple years have been abbreviated because of injury. We want to make sure we don’t push him too fast.
“I don’t have a crystal ball right now of when he’s going to pitch for us or what capacity, whether it’s as a starter or a reliever. But … at some point in time, he’s going to help us win a lot of baseball games.”
Urias said he does what he’s told. But he has put the shoulder injury behind him and had “a normal offseason, working the way I would have before the surgery.” Nonetheless, he understands what his priority needs to be.
“First, stay healthy,” he said. “I think one of the biggest things I have to do in spring training is show them that I can stay healthy and also make the team.
“Yeah, it’s been like that (restrictions on his pitch counts and innings) my entire career. If I show them I’m healthy, that’s the only way I can change the way they look at me.”
Urias threw to hitters during Wednesday’s workout with Russell Martin catching – Urias was 14 years old the last time Martin was in a Dodgers uniform. The left-hander is just one of eight candidates for a spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. He could also be valuable in a bullpen role – batters were 1 for 13 with seven strikeouts against him coming out of the bullpen in September.
Or maybe the Dodgers will decide he would be better served to spend time in the minors where his workload could be more closely monitored and his contributions at the big-league level saved for later in the season.
“You can’t really think about that,” said Urias who threw to hitters during Wednesday’s workout. “There’s 30, 40 days left in spring training and I’m just thinking about taking it day by day. That’s what I did after my surgery. I thought I would make it back and that’s what I did. I pitched in the World Series.
In the early days of camp, Roberts was not ready to rule out the possibility of Urias proving he belonged on the season-opening roster.
“We’re not going to close the door on that because to say he’s not one of the 12 or 13 best pitchers, that’s a tough argument,” he said.
“But then you have to layer in – in what role, what’s best for him, what’s best for the organization. So that’s why with Julio it’s a little more complex.”
BUEHLER’S DAY
As scheduled, right-hander Walker Buehler threw his first bullpen session of spring camp Wednesday. Buehler had already been throwing off a mound during his workouts before reporting to camp but was held back briefly by the Dodgers, mindful of his workload as a rookie last season.
“Kinda knock the cobwebs off a little bit and move forward,” Buehler said of the 30-pitch session Wednesday.
“The way I throw the ball and the way my arm works, I don’t think I need quite as many reps to get the velocities and stuff like that that I want to be at. I was happy with it.”
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OFF DAY
Justin Turner and Corey Seager were held out of the workout Wednesday. Seager called it “just a built-in part of the schedule” in his rehab from hip and elbow surgeries – but not one he welcomed.
“Not after nine months of trying to get back out there,” he said.
Seager said he did a light “recovery day-type workout” in the weight room Wednesday and is scheduled to be back on the field for Thursday’s workout – but he might get another day off. A strong rainstorm is expected in the Phoenix area that could wash out activities for the entire team.

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