ST. LOUIS — The Dodgers are fairly certain that Julio Urias was not tipping his pitches when the St. Louis Cardinals hit four home runs in one inning off him on Thursday night.
So what is the explanation for Urias having given up 14 home runs this season (tied for the most in the majors), including multiple home runs in five of his past seven starts?
“I think most of those, if you go back and look, were right down the middle. Mistake pitches,” Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior said. “The majority of the time they were mistakes in execution. You go back and look, like Belli’s homer (Cody Bellinger of the Chicago Cubs), that was supposed to be away and it was right down the middle. Yesterday’s homers were right over the middle.
“I would say the majority of them have been middle-middle or the fat part of the plate. A well-executed pitch (that gets hit out), you tip your hat to.”
Over the first seven seasons of his major-league career, Urias gave up roughly one home run every nine innings pitched. That was up slightly last season (1.2 per nine innings) but has vaulted to 2.3 per nine innings in his first 10 starts this year.
“It’s obviously worrisome,” Urias said through an interpreter following Thursday’s game. “It’s one of those things where, I’m not hiding from it, I’ve got to do a better job.”
Better execution of his pitches is the primary part of that, Prior acknowledged. But Urias might also need to make some changes in his pitch sequencing as opposing teams’ “gameplan against him has shifted over the last couple years.”
“I think guys have gotten used to how he pitches a little bit. So it’s our responsibility to adapt to that and try to change that,” Prior said. “Getting away from maybe some tendencies that he’s got into. Obviously, he leans heavily on some of his off-speed stuff. I don’t think that changes. I think the buckets and usages are all the same but maybe switching it up in how we go about attacking in different situations over the course of the game.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the home run barrage by the Cardinals “piqued my interest” regarding the potential for pitches being tipped in some fashion and the Dodgers had to “do our due diligence” to make sure Urias wasn’t giving anything away. The conclusion is that Urias is just making more mistakes than the Dodgers are accustomed to seeing from him.
“I just think it’s been bad pitches,” Roberts said. “If you look at those pitches, there were some non-competitive pitches and the balls that they slugged, they were center cut.”
Dodgers relievers had to pitch 26 innings in the four games before Friday. That workload has prompted roster moves to bring in fresher arms each of the last three days with a reliever who pitched multiple innings the night before was sent out – Justin Bruihl, Dylan Covey and Andre Jackson. Right-hander Tyler Cyr was promoted in Jackson’s place Friday.
“It’s tough. In one sense it’s understandable with the players that have options because that’s part of their value, the organization’s value to be able to use guys in that way,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “In Bruihl’s particular case, he was pitching really well. To have a conversation, knowing that you’re a major-league pitcher and to tell a professional ballplayer, ‘You did everything we asked and performed’ – and I’m all about meritocracy but not to be able to follow through with that, it sucks. It’s a tough conversation.”
Outfielder Bradley Zimmer was released by the Dodgers from Triple-A Oklahoma City this week and signed a minor-league contract with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent.
Zimmer, 30, spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues with the Cleveland Guardians, Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. The Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal this offseason and he hit .219 with a .665 OPS and three home runs in 31 games for OKC this year.
Dodgers (RHP Noah Syndergaard, 1-3, 5.94 ERA) at Cardinals (RHP Miles Mikolas, 2-1, 4.91 ERA), Saturday, 4:15 p.m., FOX/Ch. 11, 570 AM
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