The Best Place for a Young Pitcher Is Middle Relief
Earl Weaver said this at least 30 years ago, and it’s still true. In hind-sight, the Dodgers would have been wiser not to start Julio Urias today, and instead put him at the bottom of the bullpen where his first major league appearance could be in garbage time when the pressure is a whole lot less.
I have to admit that I was caught up in the moment too, because Urias really is an exciting prospect. He’s been on the radar of every serious prospect watcher since at least the end of his first professional season, when he had a 2.48 ERA in the full-season class A Midwest League with 67 Ks in 54.1 innings pitched at the age of 16.
He was so good in seven AAA Pacific Coast League starts this year, with a 1.10 ERA in 41 innings pitched that one could reasonably, or at least hopefully, think that the normal rules didn’t apply.
In fact, Weaver’s rule is probably more true for a prospect as strong as Urias. With a prospect like him, the main thing is not to ruin his confidence by promoting him to soon, rather than letting the prospect’s own talent force a promotion to the next level.
Urias had forced a major league promotion by his pitching in the hitter-friendly PCL. However, the Dodgers didn’t have to start him in his very first game. Let him dominate major league hitters several times in two-to-four-inning stints in uneven games first.
In fact, because Urias will have his innings limited to a modest 110 or 120 innings this year, including the AAA innings already pitched (at least so has been reported), due to his tender age and super prospect status, there was no reason to rush Urias into the starting rotation before he had gotten his feet wet.
As a Giants fan, I always like see the Bums do something stupid, but as a baseball fan I’d like to see Urias developed into an ace, at least until he blows out his arm. Putting Urias directly into the starting rotation right away has a faint scent of desperation, simply because the Giants had opened up a five-game lead on the Dodgers in late May. Still too early in the season to put Urias into the starting rotation right away.