August 31, 2014

LOS ANGELES -- While the consensus seems to be that teenage phenom Julio Urias is ready for the big leagues, the Los Angeles Dodgers want to make sure he remains ready for years to come.

The Dodgers haven't quite decided what to do with the left-hander through the remainder of the season, but the club did decide to buy some time while they mull the decision by giving him at least two more starts at the major league level.

The first of those will come Wednesday in the series finale against the Washington Nationals.

"He's going to keep going," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I think he's earned the right to keep going and we're looking forward to that start tomorrow and we'll make the next one after that."

The Dodgers have made no secret of the fact that they are keeping Urias' innings count low this season. He's currently at 63 combined minor and major league innings and has been on a strict 70-pitch count in his five big league outings.

The Dodgers have not made public an exact number as far as innings this season for Urias, but the organization has hinted that they won't allow a future ace to work more than 100.

Urias comes into Wednesday's game with an 0-2 record and a 4.15 ERA. He has steadily improved in each outing, tossing five scoreless innings in the Dodgers' 3-2 extra-inning win over the Milwaukee Brewers in his last start. Urias allowed five hits and struck out a career-high eight batters against just one walk on 85 pitches.

The weekend rotation has yet to be set. RHP Mike Bolsinger was demoted and the Dodgers might look to add a pitcher to the rotation or could use an off day to keep the four starters on normal rest.

"That's a variable as well," Roberts said. "And so you're looking at the depth we have, but there are guys going down, so this is as an important part of the season as any."

Urias will oppose a pitcher who is used to being the youngest one on the field. Joe Ross will take the mound for the Nationals on Wednesday as they try and salvage the series.

A former first-round pick with the San Diego Padres with a 6-4 record and a 3.13 ERA this year, the lanky right-hander is having a breakout season.

At only 23 years old, Ross himself has had to answer many of the same questions as Urias. Ross' innings and pitches have also been counted by the organization, but Ross hasn't lost in a month, coming as a pleasant "surprise" to his manager.

"We have to really watch Joe," Nationals manager Dusty Baker told the Washington Post last week. "His innings are building up, as you can notice, he has the least amount of innings of our starters. We want to take him all the way through September, and hopefully into October."

The National League East-leading Nationals are trying to end their season-long skid after dropping their fourth straight game on Tuesday. Washington stranded 13 and had seven extra-base hits but was unable to capitalize on runners in scoring position.

"We didn't hit with runners in scoring position," Baker said. "We had runners in scoring position in the first four innings and we just couldn't get a hit. We hit a couple bars hard ... But we've just got to get better at picking up the runners.

"I know the guys are trying, it's not because of lack of effort, but we've just got to keep fighting this tough stretch."

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