Dodgers see Urias as starter in '20, Roberts says

LOS ANGELES -- Julio Urias, not long removed from being one of the brightest prospects in the industry, has been everything and nothing for the 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers, operating as a multi-inning reliever with no solidified responsibility and no set schedule.

His role for 2020 has already been determined.

"We project him to be a starter for us next year," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, "and many years to come."

But Urias' role for 2019 remains murky.

One option -- the most appealing, and perhaps also the most likely -- is to use him as a late-inning, high-leverage reliever, perhaps even as Kenley Jansen's setup man. The role remains wide open because prized free-agent acquisition Joe Kelly struggled mightily at the beginning of the season and the front office did not acquire another high-end reliever before Wednesday's trade deadline.

The Dodgers have been careful with Urias' workload since he returned from a lengthy shoulder rehab last September, but Roberts said the team is "considering" using Urias as a late-inning option who could appear in back-to-back days during the postseason.

"If we decide to go that route," Roberts said, "I still think that there is time to morph into that role, and give him the back-to-back, shorten his appearances and things like that, which kind of could simulate more of a working situation as far as playoff workload."

Kelly, Pedro Baez, starting pitcher Kenta Maeda and recently acquired lefty specialist Adam Kolarek are also among the options to pitch the eighth inning of a close game. Another bullpen option could be Rich Hill, who is still working his way back from an elbow injury and said Monday that he is open to returning as a reliever if there isn't enough time to get stretched out as a starting pitcher.

Urias, seven days shy of his 23rd birthday, pitched out of the bullpen last October, allowing only a couple of runs in a combined 6⅓ innings. He has spent the entire 2019 season in the major leagues, posting a 2.59 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and a 3.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 62⅔ innings, with at least three days off between all but two of his 25 appearances.

Roberts said Urias "has handled everything that's come his way with flying colors."