MLB News

Walker Buehler aims to be back by September. Dave Roberts isn’t so sure

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 17: Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler delivers against the Cincinnati Reds in September 2021. Buehler is hoping to be back on the mound in September after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. (Dylan Buell / Getty Images)

Walker Buehler is targeting a Sept. 1 return to the Dodgers rotation from his second Tommy John surgery, a timeline that manager Dave Roberts termed “aggressive” but not out of the question.

“It’s hard to bet against this guy, but Sept. 1 is not what I was hearing,” Roberts said before Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Twins. “I’m happy he feels that way. That’s a good thing. That’s embedded in Walker, the confidence, so it’s not surprising.”

The typical recovery time for ligament-replacement surgery is 14 to 18 months. Buehler, who underwent the procedure in 2015, after he was drafted in the first round by the Dodgers out of Vanderbilt, had his second surgery last August, so a Sept. 1 return would peg his recovery at one year.

“I want to get to a certain pitch count so me being here is not a hindrance,” said Buehler, who recently began throwing off a bullpen mound. “It’s a long deal, and we’re two-thirds of the way there, but I feel really good. Some of the trainers kind of want me to dial it back a little bit, but that’s just not how I operate.”

Buehler, 28, has been one of the team’s top starters for much of a six-year big league career in which he is 46-16 with a 3.02 earned-run average in 115 regular-season games and 3-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 15 playoff games.

The hard-throwing right-hander gave up just one earned run in 11 innings of two National League Championship Series starts against the Atlanta Braves in 2020 and one earned run in six innings of a World Series start against Tampa Bay to help the Dodgers win their first championship since 1988.

Buehler wouldn’t rule out a return as a reliever if he is unable to build up enough endurance by September to pitch five innings or more, but he is focused on returning as a starter.

“I don’t think anything has happened that would tell me that’s not an achievable goal,” Buehler said. “Obviously, we have a lot of talented players and a really good team, and I’m going to try and contribute any way I can. But for me, being a starting pitcher is my goal and the way I feel I can create or provide the most value.”

Noted surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed both of Buehler’s procedures, but Buehler said his second operation was different from the…

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