Rotation struggling, LA uses Urias in mop-up role

Rotation struggling, LA uses Urias in mop-up role

DENVER -- Julio Urias pitching mop-up duty. That's what it's come to for the Dodgers.

The teenage wunderkind and top prospect, untouchable in trade talk and handled with innings-limit kid gloves, was called upon to bail out the bedraggled pitching staff by eating three meaningless innings in a 12-2 blowout loss to the Rockies on Wednesday night at Coors Field.

Called up before the game, Urias pitched without glasses or contact lenses, because his bag didn't arrive in time. He and catcher A.J. Ellis had to improvise because the young lefty couldn't see the catcher's signs.

This is what happens when starters Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alex Wood, Brett Anderson and newbie Rich Hill are on the disabled list, when starters Bud Norris and Brandon McCarthy can't get past the third inning in their most recent starts, and Brock Stewart, making his second MLB start, couldn't record an out in the fifth, allowing four homers and nine runs in the thin air of Denver.

It's what happens on a day when relievers Adam Liberatore and Louis Coleman go on the disabled list to join Chris Hatcher, Casey Fien and Yimi Garcia, not to mention Chin-hui Tsao.

Manager Dave Roberts wouldn't blame 19 Rockies runs in two games on mile-high air or Coors Field's dimensions.

"I don't think much of it had to do with Coors Field," he said. "Here in this park, if you're not throwing quality strikes, you're going to pay for it."

The Dodgers have played three consecutive games in which the starters pitched a combined 7 1/3 innings. And they're still leading the National League Wild Card race, only two back in the NL West of a Giants team with apparently just as many problems, while the Rockies are charging.

"We've done it to this point, but you have to get innings out of the starting pitching, it's not some new formula," said Roberts. "You can weather adversity, and we've done a great job of that, but you're as good as your next start. No excuses."

Aside from first-year Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers have used three "true" rookie starting pitchers this year ---- Stewart, Urias and Ross Stripling -- and they are a combined 2-7 with a 5.67 ERA.

"It's tough on everyone," Roberts said of the emergency starts. "Guys come up, get thrown into the fire, they're doing the best they can. At this point, we're trying to get their feet wet, but where we're at we're also trying to win baseball games. It's definitely a balance."

Roberts said the club started Stewart over Urias because Stewart is more developed (even though he opened the season at Class A) with a triple-digit pitch count, while Urias is being rationed.

"It just made sense," he said, adding that he didn't feel Urias' innings were wasted.

"That situation is why he was here," Roberts said. "Obviously, you'd like it to be more of a game with a chance to win, but he gave us three innings to give guys an extra day instead of another day using six relievers. Julio did what he was supposed to do for us."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.