Julio Urias wasn't supposed to be long for the Midwest League, but the 16-year-old is forcing the Los Angeles Dodgers' hand.
The Mexican left-hander established career highs with eight strikeouts over six innings Wednesday night in Class A Great Lakes' 8-0 blanking of visiting West Michigan.
Urias (2-0) allowed two hits and did not walk a batter while lowering his ERA to 2.78 in eight starts. He's struck out 38 hitters while walking 13 and giving up 28 hits over 32 1/3 innings. Against the Whitecaps, he recorded seven fly-ball outs and three on the ground.
"Urias was outstanding tonight," Loons manager Razor Shines said. "He's 16 years old and the fact that he can dominate a professional baseball game the way he did tonight is unbelievable. This kid's future is bright, that's all I can tell you."
Heading into Wednesday, Urias had issued three walks in each of his previous three outings. He said after the game that his biggest adjustment since his last start was the way he attacked hitters with his breaking pitches.
"I worked the counts a little differently," Urias said through teammate and translator Alan Garcia. "I didn't waste too many pitches, especially on breaking balls. I was just finishing batters quicker than in my last couple of outings."
At the behest of pitching coach Bill Simas, Urias tried to work his curveball and slider in the strike zone with more consistency. He had fallen into the habit of trying to get opponents to chase pitches out of the zone rather than using them to get strikes or induce uncomfortable swings.
"[Simas] told me to not waste too many pitches on the breaking balls," the teenager said. "I'm trying to throw the breaking balls for strikes and then finish batters with the breaking ball."
Urias caused a stir when he made his Midwest League debut on May 26. There have been a handful of 17-year-olds to pitch in the league, including Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, but a player Urias' age throwing at Class A is more or less unheard of -- Doug Gray of RedsMinorLeagues.com was able to confirm that Urias is the first since at least 1990.
Dodgers vice president of player development De Jon Watson told MiLB.com in May that Urias was unlikely to remain in the Midwest League long after his debut, noting the team had pushed him to Great Lakes to keep him in game action until short-season and Rookie leagues began.
"It was a short little experiment for us to kind of keep him moving after we ended extended, and now it's blew up and become a big thing," Watson said.
While play has started in the Arizona and Pioneer leagues, Urias is still in the Midwest League. And following outings like Wednesday's, it's hard to imagine him taking a step back. Urias hasn't heard anything specific from the Dodgers, though, saying the team has been keeping him with the Loons on a start-by-start basis.
"I haven't heard anything about it," he said. "I'm just working to do the same things and waiting for the next start every time. I'm not worried about that, I'm just working hard every time and just doing my thing."
Urias was backed Wednesday by another emerging piece of the Dodgers' future as Corey Seager homered and drove in four runs. Los Angeles' No. 4 prospect and 2012 first-round pick has been stellar in his first full pro season, hitting .293 with eight homers and an .854 OPS.
Seager's homer was a three-run shot in the sixth inning off Whitecaps reliever Jonathan Maciel.
"He threw me two changeups tonight," Seager said. "I got one in the first at-bat and I hit a little dribbler, so I figured he was going to throw me another one. That second one, he left up a little more and I guess I was able to put a good swing on it."