LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Dodgers are ready to unveil highly touted pitcher Julio Urias, calling him up to make his major league debut on Friday night in New York against the Mets.
The 19-year-old left-hander is 4-1 with a 1.10 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he has a 27-inning scoreless streak and 44 strikeouts in 41 innings.
"Julio is really excited," Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, said Thursday on a conference call.
Urias will replace lefty Alex Wood, who was scratched with triceps soreness. Wood is expected to make his next start on Monday in Chicago against the first-place Cubs.
Urias will take the mound in front of raucous Mets fans at Citi Field, where he's not expected to be on a pitch limit.
"I don't think you can say for sure how someone is going to handle the emotions of fulfilling a lifelong dream," Friedman said. "All of our guys who have worked with Julio rave about his mound presence and his ability to control his emotions."
Urias will be the first 19-year-old to pitch for the Dodgers since fellow Mexican Fernando Valenzuela, who was promoted to the majors in September 1980. The following year, "Fernandomania" was born and Valenzuela went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards. Urias will be the first teen to start for the team since Dick Calmus in 1963.
"It's a great organizational moment," Friedman said, noting Urias was signed and developed by the franchise. "That's a really special thing."
Urias is one of the top pitching prospects in the majors. He was invited to spring training with the Dodgers for the second straight year in February and was assigned to Triple-A to start the season.
The Dodgers have carefully managed Urias since signing him shortly after his 16th birthday, discovering him on the same scouting trip to Mexico on which they signed Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig in June 2012.
The teen has never pitched more than 87 2/3 innings as a pro and it's unlikely he will become a permanent starter this season despite the injuries that have decimated the rotation.
"Julio is an extremely talented pitching prospect whose talent is a little bit ahead of his development," Friedman said. "It isn't often that a guy's talent puts him in this position well before he's built up to handle a major league starter's workload."
The club could add him to their current eight-man bullpen, something manager Dave Roberts has mentioned, as a way to limit his innings.
"We're going to assess where things are after this start and go from there. We haven't made any long-term determinations at this point," Friedman said. "We have to be mindful of his workload for the season."
Friedman added that Urias hasn't had experience as a reliever, whose job it is to get up and down on short notice.
"It makes it trickier," he said. "We think from a talent standpoint, he's definitely ready to come up and help us win a game. From a development standpoint, we're going to have to balance that."
Urias had surgery last season to remove a benign mass from his left eye, which is nearly closed as a result.
He played for the World team at the 2014 All-Star Futures Game and was chosen as the Dodgers' organizational minor league pitcher of the year. He was invited to the team's major league spring training camp last year, but was the first to be cut from the roster after pitching in two games with a 4.50 ERA. He was then re-assigned to the Dodgers' minor league camp.
Last year, Urias pitched at Double-A, where he was 3-4 with a 2.77 ERA in 13 starts for the Tulsa Drillers, and later at Oklahoma City.
Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (left shoulder surgery) is scheduled to make two more rehab starts before rejoining the rotation. He started and threw 55 pitches over four scoreless innings for Oklahoma City in Fresno, California, on Wednesday, allowing four hits and striking out three.
"Each start has gotten progressively better," Friedman said. "I saw him Wednesday night. He said he felt great and was really pleased with his off-speed pitches and had really good feel for his curveball. It was a very meaningful step forward."
Friedman said Wood felt something in his triceps in his start against St. Louis and it grew sore after his start at San Diego last week.