With growth comes confidence for young Urias

With growth comes confidence for young Urias

LOS ANGELES -- Julio Urias didn't need an outing like he had in Saturday's 3-2 win to prove how much he has grown as a 19-, now 20-year-old making his way through the Majors as the youngest player in the league.

Entering the game, the Dodgers left-hander held a 3.10 ERA since his second career start, a difficult outing in which the Cubs' lineup took him for five earned runs and three homers at Wrigley Field.

However, locking down the Cubs to the tune of eight strikeouts and one earned run in six innings on Saturday should prove that the young pitcher who ended June 2 with a 9.39 ERA is a completely different pitcher from the one that found himself dealing on Saturday.

"That kid is all what they think he is. This kid was outstanding," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He knows how to elevate against guys he's supposed to elevate against, he knows how to throw the ball down against the guys he's supposed to throw the ball down to. He's got a nice move at first base, he handled himself well at the plate and he's 20 years old. That's pretty good."

Urias singles to left

With 70 strikeouts in 63 innings now, Urias' stuff has never been in doubt. Except possibly to Urias himself. In the early stages of his MLB career, the southpaw struggled to get a feel for the zone and limit his pitch count. With one run allowed in his last four appearances (three starts), that appears to be changing.

"I feel a lot more confident. A couple starts ago, I started picking up my confidence and that really helps going forward," Urias said through an interpreter.

That confidence has translated to more strike throwing, which in addition to an improved sense of the strike zone, has created a dangerous pitcher.

"I think he's being more aggressive," manager Dave Roberts said. "Early on, he was trying to understand the Major League strike zone. It's a little bit tighter east and west, and here in the big leagues it's a little more liberal north and south. Early on in his starts, he felt he was getting squeezed, but with the stuff that he has, he can trust his stuff and be a little more aggressive in the strike zone."

There is one thing that remains the same from Saturday to that June series in Chicago. The Dodgers' plan for Urias remains hazy. It was unknown if Urias would stay in the rotation after his rough first two starts, and it's unclear now how long he will continue to stay in the rotation as the Dodgers hit the final stretch and the postseason. The rookie is still under an unspecified innings limit that is a product of youth.

If the Dodgers decided to stick with him, though, they will be getting a pitcher that finally knows he belongs.

"In the beginning, I felt strange, but now it feels like I'm a part of this level," Urias said. "I belong here, and that's the biggest difference."

Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.