The Dodgers placed left-hander Julio Urias on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to May 19) due to a left hamstring strain. Righty Wander Suero has been called up from Triple-A in the corresponding move.
Losing Urias is another major blow to a Dodgers rotation that will also be without Dustin May for the next four to six weeks. May is dealing with a flexor pronator strain. It seemed like the L.A. rotation was finally back at full strength once Tony Gonsolin returned from the sprained ankle that cost him time at the start of the season, but the Dodgers are now suddenly down two starters in short order, again stretching the club’s depth.
Young arms like Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove were supposed to provide some depth, yet Pepiot has missed the entire season with an oblique strain, while Grove himself hit the IL a month ago due to a groin strain. On the plus side, manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register) that Grove was beginning a Triple-A rehab assignment, so Grove could on the way back sooner rather than later.
Gavin Stone made his MLB debut with a four-inning start on May 3, which represents the top prospect’s only big league game to date. It seems likely that Stone will be the Dodgers’ first choice in replacing Urias, unless Andre Jackson is called up from Triple-A. Outside the 40-man roster, Los Angeles could turn to Robbie Erlin, Matt Andriese or yet another notable prospect in Bobby Miller.
Of course, there’s no easy way to truly replace an ace like Urias, even if the southpaw has been a little shakier than usual. Though seven of Urias’ 10 starts have ranged from good to excellent, he was hit hard in his other three outings, including a three-inning, six-run performance against the Cardinals in his last start on Thursday when Urias allowed four home runs. It is fair to wonder if Urias’ hamstring problems surfaced during that outing, accounting for his struggles.
Urias has a 4.39 ERA over 55 1/3 innings, with a borderline elite 4.8% walk rate and an above-average 35.4% hard-hit ball rate. However, Urias has a middling 23.3% strikeout rate, and opposing batters have been capitalizing on their contact when they have been squaring up, as Urias’ 10.6% barrel rate is far above his career norms. Urias’ signature four-seam fastball has dominated hitters for years, but the pitch has been basically average for the left-hander in 2023.
The severity of Urias’ hamstring strain isn’t yet known, and in the best-case scenario of a Grade 1 strain, he is still probably looking at missing a few days beyond the 15-day minimum. A longer-term absence would be an even bigger problem for Urias and the Dodgers in regard to 2023, and it could impact Urias’ chance of fully maxing out on a free-agent contract this winter. Projected behind only Shohei Ohtani as the top free agent of the 2023-24 class, Urias is in line for a big payday of some sort this winter, unless an injury looms as a possible X-factor.
Since there’s plenty of time before the trade deadline and because the Dodgers already have a bit of a cushion atop the NL West, L.A. can monitor Urias, May, Grove and any other pitchers before deciding what its next step might be with the rotation. If the injured hurlers are able to return in relatively short order or if the youngsters can provide quality innings, the Dodgers might not make starting pitching a chief priority at the deadline, which would allow the team to focus on other needs. That said, injuries in the bullpen have thinned out the club’s pitching depth as a whole, so it would be a little surprising if Los Angeles didn’t add pitching in some regard.
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