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Julio Urías' uncertain status leaves Dodgers' pitching plans in limbo

Los Angeles, CA - October 20: Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias walks off the field.

Will Julio Urías pitch again for the Dodgers?

Two days after the left-hander’s arrest on suspicion of felony domestic violence, it remained an unanswered question for the team Tuesday, casting a cloud of doubt over the Dodgers' pitching plans for the rest of the season.

“It’s certainly very unfortunate,” manager Dave Roberts said, at the start of a six-game trip for which Urías did not accompany the team. “Right now, it’s essentially in the authorities' and Major League Baseball’s court, to do their due diligence. Obviously Julio is not here with us, and for us, we’re just sitting and waiting as the process continues until we know more.”

Read more: Plaschke: Julio Urías simply cannot be allowed to pitch again for the Dodgers

Urías was arrested Sunday night while leaving the LAFC-Inter Miami soccer match at BMO Field. He was booked in a Los Angeles jail and released on $50,000 bond Monday morning. He has a court date Sept. 27. Details of the alleged incident have not been made public.

Urías could be placed on administrative leave while the league launches an investigation. He previously was investigated for violating MLB's domestic violence policy in 2019 and suspended 20 games, although he was not charged with a crime.

With the playoffs beginning next month, his chances of returning to the mound before the end of the season are unclear, as is his future with the team. Urias is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason.

“Extremely disappointing development,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who called Urías on Monday to inform him he wouldn't be traveling with the team this week.

Read more: Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías arrested on suspicion of domestic violence

“For us right now," Friedman added, "it’s having him and his representatives resolve this while we’re focused on both the near and long term.”

The uncertainty will weigh on a Dodgers team that has struggled to find consistency from its rotation. Long before Sunday, the state of the starting pitching had emerged as a potential impediment to postseason success.

Urías has been part of the problem. His 4.60 ERA in 21 starts is the highest of his career. His 11-8 record is his worst in any season he was primarily a starting pitcher. And after consecutive campaigns as a Cy Young Award candidate, he has failed to deliver the kind of production the Dodgers anticipated when they chose him as their opening day starter in March.

Nonetheless, Urías remained a key cog in their October plans.

He and Clayton Kershaw — who was the Dodgers’ starter for their series opener against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night — seemed likely to be the only pitchers the team would trust in typical, full-length starting roles come the playoffs.

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías walks to the dugout during a loss to the Chicago Cubs on April 16 at Dodger Stadium.

Urías’ postseason track record — including his crucial performance as a swingman in the club’s 2020 World Series title — was expected to help steady a staff that, despite recent improvements, ranks just 16th in the majors in team ERA.

If Urías doesn’t pitch in the playoffs, the Dodgers will have to scramble to compensate for his absence, with limited options. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May both have been lost to Tommy John surgeries, and the team's new additions on the mound have produced mixed results.

Kershaw could be forced into a heavier workload, potentially putting more strain on a 35-year-old veteran who, according to Roberts, still is dealing with a shoulder injury that sidelined him all of July.

“The hope is he’s going to continue to feel better,” Roberts said of Kershaw. "But given where he’s at physically, it’s hard to say that’s going to happen. If we can just kind of hold here and bet on him, I think we’ll bank that.”

Rookie right-hander Bobby Miller could be asked to pitch more October innings, a tall task for a 24-year-old who made his major league debut in late May.

The importance of Walker Buehler’s recovery from Tommy John surgery also would increase — though his return is no guarantee.

While Buehler pitched two clean innings in his first minor league rehabilitation start Sunday, he will need at least two more rehab outings before rejoining the Dodgers, Roberts said, and even then he isn’t expected to be fully built up for a starter’s workload.

Read more: Q&A: Here's what comes next for Julio Urías and the Dodgers after his arrest

“What occurred yesterday [with Urías' arrest] has no bearing on his progression,” Roberts said of Buehler. “If we just feel comfortable that he’s healthy and he can get major league hitters out, we feel good about that. And if we don’t, then we’re willing to not kind of pull that lever.”

Friedman still tried to strike a confident tone when asked about the potential of not having Urías in October.

“We feel like we’re going to have a lot of talent on our pitching staff in October,” Friedman said. “We might not know exactly who the 13 are going to be right now. But we feel very confident that we will be bringing some big-boy stuff to the table."

Roberts was hopeful Urías' situation wouldn't serve as a distraction for the club.

"I think everyone feels the same way I do, as far as [it being] a very unfortunate circumstance," Roberts said. "I think our guys are really just trying to focus on today and let things play out as they will.”

Still, there’s no question: The best version of this year's Dodgers was one led on the mound by Urías.

And, if he's unavailable come the playoffs, it could create significant complications in their pursuit of a World Series.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.