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Julio Urias Becomes Trusted Los Angeles Dodgers Playoff Option

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Julio Urias (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

BOSTONJulio Urias only made it back to the majors on Sept. 15, a return preceded by nearly 16 months rehabbing from a major shoulder injury. The Dodgers eased him back in by pitching him only once a week, and only in blowouts. The three games Urias pitched in the regular season ended in Dodgers wins by scores of 17-4, 14-0 and 15-0. Not once did he pitch with less than a 10-run lead, let alone anything resembling high-leverage situation.

But manager Dave Roberts has not shied away from using the 22-year-old lefthander in big spots this postseason. After joining the Dodgers' playoff roster in the NLCS, Urias was deployed four times in the seven-game series against the Brewers, including back-to-back days in Games Six and Seven. He found himself back on the mound in Game One of the World Series.

Roberts called upon Urias in the sixth inning and entrusted him to keep the game from getting out of hand with the Dodgers down 5-3. Urias did the job, striking out Sandy Leon and Jackie Bradley Jr. in a perfect inning. He came back out to start the seventh and allowed Andrew Benintendi’s bloop double before being pulled.

Roberts’ comfort using Urias stems from the Dodgers’ belief that the one-time prospect wunderkind still possesses the stuff to be a difference-maker, even with his injuries.

As far as Roberts is concerned, this is just a warmup for Urias to take his place in the Dodgers rotation next year.

"I don't see him in this role for 2019. I think that he's a starting pitcher,” Roberts said. "And so our goal is to build him up as a starter, to help us on this club at some point next year. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

"I'll take Julio in any capacity right now.”

Urias, of course, was the talk of the minors as a 16-year-old mowing down hitters in the low Class A Midwest League in 2013. He reached Triple-A by 18, was the top-ranked pitching prospect in baseball entering 2016 and delivered, pitching to a 3.39 ERA as a 19-year-old rookie in the Dodgers' rotation.

But the following May he injured his shoulder, and In June he had season-ending anterior capsule surgery.

So began a long rehab that had fits and starts and concerns about his long-term viability. Even when he came back, nothing indicated the Dodgers felt he was ready to take on a major role after such a long layoff.

But Urias has long been an exception to general rules, starting from the time he was pitching in full-season ball when most in his age group were high school sophomores or juniors.

Now, he’s not only back, but back in the biggest spotlight in baseball.

"This is a very mature, talented young man,” Roberts said. "Did I foresee him on the World Series roster, let alone postseason roster, in September? No, I didn't. And so all the credit goes to Julio and the medical staff for getting him to where he's at right now. He's a very confident, tough young man and very talented, like I said. He's shown anything is possible, and he's helped us win baseball games.”

MOLINA WINS CLEMENTE AWARD

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was named the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award prior to Game Two. The award is given annually to the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship and community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”

Molina, 36, received the Clemente Award for leading relief efforts in his native Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria decimated the island last year. Molina spent two weeks delivering supplies and repairing structures and has continued to raise awareness of the territory’s plight.

Molina was unable to attend the award ceremony at Fenway Park because he is managing Puerto Rico’s 23-and-under national team in the WBSC U-23 World Cup.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a fellow Puerto Rican, spoke to the effect of Molina’s relief efforts.

"It was amazing,” Cora said. "I know he helped most of the towns back home, but there's one specifically, Utuado … he went up there and he went house by house to give ice bags and food. He was up there for a while. I call him the leader because he's the leader of our national team. He's the leader of the St. Louis Cardinals. And he's the leader on the field. But off the field, he became the leader last year.

"(I’m) very proud of him. Very proud of what he's done throughout his career. But I think last year was the highlight of his career. What he did was amazing.”

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM

With his fifth-inning appearance in Game One, Dodgers reliever Ryan Madson became the 40th player all-time to appear in a World Series with three different teams. The 38-year-old righthander made it with Phillies in 2008 and 2009, the Royals in 2015 and now the Dodgers in 2018.

Madson, a ninth-round pick in 1999 and four-time Phillies Top 10 prospect coming up, has done more than just appear. He is 6-1, 2.43 in 54 career playoff appearances, and his 69 strikeouts rank second all-time in the postseason among relievers, trailing only Mariano Rivera (110).

ROLLING THROUGH SERIES

Beating the Red Sox in the World Series has become a daunting task this millennium, no matter the year or opponent.

The Red Sox improved to 13-2 in their last 15 World Series games with their Game One victory on Tuesday. They swept the Cardinals in 2004 and Rockies in 2007 and beat the Cardinals 4-2 in 2013.

The only other team to ever go 13-2 or better in any 15-game stretch of the World Series is the Yankees, who most recently did it when they went 14-1 beginning with Game Three of the 1996 World Series and concluding with Game Three of the 2000 World Series.

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