Dodgers Rookies have a role in September

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Photo by The Canadian Press

By Rich Mancuso

Jose De Leon made his second big league start for the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  The 24-year old righthander, from Isabela Puerto Rico, showed his composure after throwing home runs balls to Starlin Castro and to, Aaron Judge another rooke

The Castro ball was hit off a changeup that went to the second deck in right. Judge, who has power, hit his solo home run in the fifth inning off a fastball that went beyond the bullpen and deep into the bleachers in left.  It helped that De Leon had early run support and the Dodgers would never trail and win the first game of three, 8-2 against the New York Yankees.

And watching from a seat downstairs, Hector Berrios gave his assessment and smiled like a proud father. Berrios, a Bronx native, has spent his years knowing something about pitching as a lefthanded draft pick of the San Francisco Giants and after eight years on the mound in various minor league systems, he made the decision that it was time to coach.

“Liked first and foremost his composure,” Berrios said. You see, this is like a father-son relationship with Berrios and De Leon, similar to how a fighter and trainer in the boxing gym develop a bond between them,

De Leon and Berrios met in Arizona a few years back. Then, De Leon was with the Arizona Dodgers, a rookie league affiliate, and the fastball and changeup needed some work. Berrios, with experience as a minor league pitching coach knows something about mechanics and it showed this past season with low ERA’s and working with youngsters for the Phillies Williamsport Short-A affiliate.

De Leon debuted last week against San Diego at Dodgers Stadium. He allowed three earned runs in 6.0 innings. The. Nine strikeouts were the second most by a Dodger in their MLB debut, and a 24th round of the 2013 First-year Player Draft, out of Southern University, will stay in the rotation.

The Dodgers have been hindered by injuries and De Leon became their 15th starter that tied with the Braves and Angels. Tuesday night, another youngster, their 20-year old lefthander Julio Urias got his fifth start, 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA in his last four.

Urias, the native of Culiacan, Sinaloa Mexico before his start in New York Tuesday night allowed two runs on three hits in 5.1 innings also against the Padres.  

“It’s real special to have him pitching consecutive days with me in the series,” said De Leon. But Urias did not last long against the Yankees and walked three on four hits in 3-⅔ innings.  

De Leon will get more starts in the final few weeks, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game that Urias was making his last start in order to preserve innings before a hopeful and expected postseason.

“That’s up up to the team whether it’s my last outing,”Urias said through an interpreter. “It’s been an excellent year . What I was able to do in Triple-A and then here, I think it’s been great.”

And it won’t be over for Urias who will get dispatched to the bullpen. The Dodgers expect the reigning Cy Young  Award winner Clayton Kershaw back in the rotation, so Urias becomes that extra and valuable arm in the pen.

Roberts has been impressed with the two starts from De Leon. Yankee Stadium did not as the manager said, “unfaze” the rookie.  

“His poise was off the charts where he has come. With two major league wins under his belt. He has that ability to enjoy the moment, take in  the setting, the history and also understand what his job is to do.”

The job of course, keep the Dodgers in ballgames by giving them innings as they try to wrap up the NL West divisional title.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here,” De Leon commented in the visitor’s clubhouse. “Even though I want to go deeper in the games, got my team here. It was electric , everything I expected. I was actually a little more nervous than I was in LA. Since I grew up a Red Sox fan I really wanted to beat the Yankees.”

Two rookies and more to come for the Dodgers. They expect to be playing deep into October and every indication is De Leon can only get better with his selection of pitches. Berrios helped the young pitcher as well as others, but it comes down to adjustments and that is what makes him special.

And with the renewal of once was a great Yankees-Dodgers baseball rivalry that was a tradition in New York, De Leon and Urias made it special again.

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