Dodgers' Urias gets playoff-tuneup start vs. Padres
SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers won their fourth consecutive National League West title for a lot of reasons.
Among them was contributions from their younger players.
Left-hander Julio Urias (5-2, 3.53 ERA) is one of the kids who is doing all right. He will try to prevent a three-game San Diego Padres sweep when he starts the series finale Thursday.
"With Julio, it's just the way he carries himself," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the 20-year-old rookie. "He is so mature, and he carries himself with that confidence."
Urias will be opposed by Christian Friedrich (5-11, 4.66 ERA) in a battle of southpaws.
Urias is making his first start since Sept. 13 and his first appearance since Sept. 21.
The Dodgers have been cautious with his innings, which will make him available for the postseason. Roberts said Urias will be among the 25 players trying to bring a World Series championship to Los Angeles for the first time since 1988.
Urias could be the Dodgers' No. 4 starter if they need one. More likely, he will be used out of the bullpen.
"Julio has been receptive in being able to adapt," Roberts said.
Urias has a live arm and a keen mind. Roberts noticed how he goes about his work and the players he is learning from.
"He has really taken to the way Clayton (Kershaw) has mentored him, and Adrian (Gonzalez) has really helped him a lot," Roberts said. "He understands there is still a lot in there for his growth, and to his credit, he has been open."
Urias has faced the Padres once, when he gave up two runs and three hits in 5 1/3 innings during a no-decision on Sept. 2.
Friedrich has struggled against the Dodgers this year, going 0-1 with a 6.39 ERA in three starts. Los Angeles amassed 19 hits and seven walks in just 12 2/3 innings against him.
His career numbers against the Dodgers are similarly ugly: 0-1 with a 7.32 ERA in 13 games (three starts).
Friedrich, a 29-year-old completing his first season with the Padres, is almost an elder statesman on a team in the process of a youth movement.
San Diego waited for its Triple-A affiliate, El Paso, to finish its postseason run before calling up four prospects on Sept. 21.
Already, Manuel Margot enjoyed a game in which he finished a home run shy of a cycle. Hunter Renfroe has four home runs and 12 RBIs in seven games. Carlos Asuaje looks smooth at second base, and Austin Hedges is steady behind the plate.
All appear poised to contribute for years. Then again, Padres manager Andy Green warns not to put anyone in the Baseball Hall of Fame just yet.
"They have been good," Green said, "but it's early in some of their major league careers, so I am going to say what I said in the beginning: If they get 15 hits in a week and a half, it's good for them, but it doesn't mean anything, so much for them and their future. And if they don't get a hit, it doesn't mean they are not going to be a great major league player."
Green is anxious to see how the prized prospects react things get challenging.
"You will run through stretches when players are on fire and when they are ice cold," Green said. "The real measure of a major league player is how he responds to adversity, how he responds when he is not getting hits and how he comes back from that. You are not going to get that look in September."
But at first glance, the Padres have hope for the future.
"The early returns are good," Green said. "I love Hunter Renfroe's even-keel demeanor. Manny Margot's energy and smile on the baseball field. Carlos Asuaje is incredibly determined, and Austin Hedges has been very cerebral behind the plate. You expect those things to continue on, but you have to go through some tough times at this level."