The Dodgers welcomed Julio Urías back into the roster for Saturday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals, but the left-hander’s first start in more than a month was delayed by a thunderstorm that hit Kauffman Stadium just after the scheduled 4:15 p.m. start PDT soggy pitch.
Urías, who played 5-4 in his first ten starts with a 4.39 ERA, missed 36 games with a left hamstring strain. The 26-year-old left-hander completed a rehab start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, allowing one run and two hits and hitting eight in four innings.
“After what he did in his rehab, that’s all we need,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “It was 93-95 mph, it was a snarling slider. His command, his speed, nothing was consistent [before the injury]. I hope he’s healthy. He is definitely motivated to finish well.”
Urías was 17-7 with a 2.16 ERA best in the National League in 31 starts last season, notching 166 strikeouts and 41 walks in 175 innings and hoping to convert a strong 2023 season into a nine-figure free contract next winter Agency to convert . However, to do that, he needs to stay healthy and pitch effectively for the rest of the season.
“We love Julio – he was a great Dodger – and our hope [is that we re-sign him]’ said Roberts. “But when you’re a free agent, he’s earned the right to make the decision himself. So I’d love to have Julio, but being a free agent is what’s best for his family and he and his agent have to make that decision.”
As happy as the Dodgers are to have Urías back, his return to the rotation could be offset – at least temporarily – by the loss of top player Clayton Kershaw, who could be put on the injured list with a shoulder infection on Sunday.
Kershaw retired from Tuesday night’s game in Colorado after throwing 79 pitches in six one-hit innings and received a cortisone injection in his shoulder Thursday, which he described as “strained.”
The left-hander put in a vigorous shooting session in the outfield at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday afternoon, a workout Kershaw described as “okay”.
But Roberts described the session as “just fine”. The Dodgers want to see Kershaw come out of practice on Sunday before making a roster change. If Kershaw can’t make his next scheduled start Monday night against Pittsburgh, right-hander Michael Grove would be “an option” to start against the Pirates, Roberts said.
Kershaw, who is 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts, is the only pitcher from the opening day rotation to avoid the injury list, but the Dodgers don’t want to risk taking him down the mound with less than 100% send A week before the All-Star break.
The original plan called for Kershaw to start twice in the last week before the break, against the Pirates on Monday and against the Angels on Saturday. By eliminating Kershaw this week, he would have at least 15 days to rest and recover before making his first starting XI after the break.
“That’s the whole point,” Roberts said. “He probably could [pitch]? Yes. But you’re trying to balance how clean it is, how good it feels, and whether a reset is okay? So think for us: It’s okay.”
Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner, prides himself on his ability to cope with minor aches and pains, but he didn’t seem ready to fight the Dodgers if they put him on the IL list.
“I’m not going to be stupid,” Kershaw said Thursday. “If I feel like it’s going to take a few days or I need to wait out the break, I do.” But I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term thing or anything.”
Roberts said utility man Chris Taylor, who has been out since June 25 with right knee pain, will not return before the All-Star break. … Friday night marked the second time in Mookie Betts’ career that the Dodgers’ leadoff man had reached base six times in a game. Betts, who hit two home runs, an RBI double, an RBI single and two walks in a 9-3 win over the Royals, last accomplished the feat as a member of the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees on August 2, 2018. Betts now has 25 leadoff homers as a Dodger, four fewer than the franchise record of 29 set by Davey Lopes. …First baseman Freddie Freeman has started all 82 games this season. The Iron Man started the first 141 games of the 2022 season before taking his first day off on September 14. When asked Saturday if he had brought up the subject of a day off with Freeman, Roberts said, “No, no, we do.” Not nearly. … He has days off during the All-Star break.”