MLB News

Dodgers’ Walker Buehler has return timeline coming into focus as righty makes first rehab start

Dodgers' Walker Buehler has return timeline coming into focus as righty makes first rehab start

Six games into the new season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are 4-2, and they’ve already shown they can win games every which way. With a powerhouse offense, with stellar starting pitching, and with a smothering bullpen. Once Shohei Ohtani gets going — Ohtani is hitting .269/.310/.346 in the super early going — the Dodgers will be even more formidable.

Los Angeles can also look forward to the return of Walker Buehler, who is slowly working his way back from his second Tommy John surgery. He went under the knife on Aug. 23, 2022, and the Dodgers opted not to rush him back as a reliever late last season. They also brought Buehler along slowly in spring training and went with a longer, more cautious build-up period.

On Sunday, Buehler made his first Triple-A rehab start and threw 54 pitches across 3 1/3 innings. The results were not great — Buehler allowed four runs (three earned) on three hits (including a homer) and two walks while striking out two — but all that matters at this point is he made it out in one piece. The results are something to worry about later.

For what it’s worth, Buehler’s fastball averaged 94.2 mph and topped out at 95.7 mph on Sunday, which is down about 1 mph from where he was prior to elbow surgery in 2022. That does not qualify as an alarming velocity drop in his first rehab start, thought it is something to monitor moving forward. For now, Buehler is back pitching in games and working his way back to the Dodgers.

“I think with Walker, he has so many different pitches and weapons, and the most important part is the build up and the execution,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Sunday (via the Orange Country Register). “Then, as you get out there further, it’s the results. The thing for him — and for us — is that he has to be built up to pitch a major league game.”

Pitchers get a 30-day minor league rehab window, though teams can request a second 30-day rehab window for pitchers working their way back from elbow reconstruction, so Buehler’s rehab stint could go on as long as two months. How long he needs will depend on how he feels and how his stuff looks. The clock officially started Sunday though.

Buehler, 29, had a 4.02 ERA in 12 starts prior to surgery in 2022. In 2021, his last healthy season, he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting and threw 207 2/3 innings with a 2.47 ERA. Buehler has a career 3.02 ERA in parts of six major league seasons…

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