Young Dodgers southpaw Julio Urias will require anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder, according to a team announcement. It’s a major operation that clouds the future of the 20-year-old hurler.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman says that the expectation is Urias will require an absence of between twelve and fourteen months, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports (links to Twitter). It’s even possible that Urias could pitch in the majors in 2018, he emphasized.
Though the procedure is a scary one for any pitcher, there are some mitigating factors here. Friedman says that Urias suffered the injury in an acute manner and is not dealing with any other injuries in his shoulder. That makes for a relatively more constrained problem than many prior pitchers have dealt with.
Still, it’s hard not to cringe when looking at the list of pitchers who have gone before Urias — though Friedman did specify that none were truly direct comparables. The most famous case is that of Johan Santana, who never really made it back. This 2012 piece from Adam Rubin of ESPN.com talks about the history (before Santana’s ultimate fate was known). And this deep dive from Jon Shepherd of Camden Depot covers the nuts and bolts.
It’s notable that the injury — so far as is presently known — occurred while Urias was on optional assignment. That would mean he will not accrue MLB service time during his recovery. Service-time considerations were only part of the picture for the Dodgers as they handled Urias with care over the past several seasons. Even as he showed immense aptitude for his age, the team took great care to limit his workload and ease him towards the big leagues.
The Mexican prodigy cracked the majors last year at 19 years of age, turning in 77 impressive innings of 3.39 ERA pitching with 9.8 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. It seemed he’d be ready for a more-or-less full season of work in 2017, but struggled early and ended up back at Triple-A. While he was seemingly on track to sort things out and make it back up, Urias apparently suffered the injury in his most recent outing for Oklahoma City.
While Los Angeles can do little but wait and hope that Urias responds well, the news does have near-term ramifications. The Dodgers will no longer be able to count on a boost from the lefty down the stretch, making it seem all the more likely that the team will consider adding a starter at the deadline. Though the rotation goes at least six deep, with other options standing by, the Dodgers are facing a steep test in the NL West and are no doubt aware of the injury risks carried by most of the members of the current staff.