Urias plays stopper with dominant outing

Urias plays stopper with dominant outing

CINCINNATI -- Early on, it seemed like Sunday might produce another short outing for Dodgers rookie Julio Urias.

Urias took Reds leadoff man Billy Hamilton to a full count before striking him out and then gave up a single to Jose Peraza. But with his patented quick move, Urias wiped Peraza off the bases with his fifth pickoff of the season before working around another single to escape the inning unscathed. After that, Urias went on to retire the next nine batters he faced, ultimately throwing six shutout innings in a 4-0 win at Great American Ball Park in arguably the best start of the 20-year-old's short career.

"I think the thing today with Juli is he was getting his breaking ball over for a strike, keeping the ball down in the strike zone," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "He and [catcher Yasmani Grandal] had a really nice rhythym today and Yasi did a nice job navigating him through that game."

Urias' improvement after that first inning came courtesy of an adjustment he made between frames. He struggled with his armside command in the first -- especially with the changeup -- but spoke with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Grandal and was able to figure it out.

"During the first inning the changeup was outside a little bit," Urias said through Spanish language translator Jesus Quinonez. "But after we got out, we were able to talk to the pitching coach and he was able to help me fix everything, and also with the slider."

Urias' outing marked a step in the right direction for the league's youngest player. His six innings tied a career high and, for the second time, he allowed no runs in a start. It's also his second start without a walk -- the only other instance was a four-inning spot start on July 21 in Washington that ended after 77 pitches -- and was his second-most efficient outing, with just over 16 pitches per inning.

"You look at his track record in the Minor Leagues, every time he moved up a level he kind of struggled a little bit and then he just blew out the competition," Grandal said. "I think it was last year when he first got to Triple-A, he was OK through the first few starts. And then all of a sudden he came out and started doing really good. We're kind of seeing almost the same thing that he's done in the past years."

The start also leaves the Dodgers with a pitching dilemma. With the struggles of Bud Norris and Brett Anderson and the injury to Brandon McCarthy, the club could use Urias' arm in the rotation. However, he's already at 102 innings combined between the Minors and Majors this season -- 14 1/3 innings more than he's ever thrown in a season.

Roberts admitted that he's got to try to win games, but has to balance Urias' health with the long-term vision of the franchise.

"Since I've been here, that's been my mindset -- help the team however I can," Urias said through Quinonez. "It's important that I stay healthy because that's the way that I'm going to contribute to this team and help in whatever way possible."

Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Dodgers on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.