Dodgers ace Buehler to undergo end-of-season elbow surgery

The Dodgers announced Monday that the right-hand man Walker Buehler will undergo season-ending surgery on his right elbow on August 23. He has been out of action since June 10 after being diagnosed with Grade 2 flexor strain.

That injury initially kept pitching out for six to eight weeks, and the Dodgers certainly hoped that Buehler could return by the end of September and/or possibly after the season. Instead, he won’t be playing again until next season at the earliest. Other details were unclear as the team declined to provide specifics on the nature of the process in the initial announcement.

Buehler, 28, finished fourth in the Cy Young vote in the National League last season but has now had numerous arm problems this season. Once it became clear that the forearm strain would bypass Buehler in a 3-month period, he underwent an arthroscopy procedure to remove a bone in his elbow – a problem he says has plagued him. him for the past few seasons.

The arm problem(s) limited Buehler to 65 plays in 2022, during which time he posted a 4.02 ERA with a career-low 21.2% hit rate. They’re pedestrian numbers by his lofty standards – both roughly matching the league’s average yield among MLB starting pitchers (4.09 ERA, ratio strike 21.4%).

Since his first major league season, in 2018, Buehler has established himself as a rock in the Dodgers’ rotation and one of the most talented arms in the National League. He’s 23rd in the Majors in plays thrown from 2018-22 – even if there’s plenty of time to miss this year – and also seventh in ERA (2.95), 25th in exit stroke (27%) and 32nd in walk rate (6.2%) among a field of 152 qualified starting pitchers at the time.

For now, Buehler will join both Clayton Kershaw (lower back discomfort) and Dustin May (recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2021) on the injury list. Both May and Kershaw will return before the end of the regular season. May recently beat 10 men in 5 innings in his fifth Triple-A match to start the season. He built up to 70 pitches. Kershaw, meanwhile, recently underwent an epidural and has continued to throw, although there is no immediate timetable for him to return to the Major League mound.

With that trio on the shelf, the Dodgers will be looking Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and rookies Ryan Pepiot as rotation options – although Pepiot could soon be eliminated in May. Even without big-name equals like Kershaw and Buehler, it was a formidable group thanks to groundbreaking performances from each of Gonsolin (2.24 ERA, 116 innings 1/3 turn), Anderson (2.81 ERA). , 128 1/3 turns) and Heaney (1.16 ERA, 32.3% hit rate in 31 rounds).

Obviously, it’s impossible to put Buehler on a hopeful spin post-season, but Urias, Gonsolin and Kershaw’s team remains one of the formidable top three, with May, Anderson and Heaney all starting the match. potential playoffs. The broader question for the Dodgers is just how resilient and what Buehler’s 2023 outlook will look like.

Even in the event that Buehler requires Tommy John surgery and will have to miss most of the 2023 season – which, obviously, is not indicated or even implied by the team – he will still be a padlock to contract bidding. The 2022 campaign is the second in a two-year, $8 million deal that buys out Buehler’s first two-year arbitration. He will qualify arb four times as a Super Two player, which means he has two boost points to go. Due to his limited workload this year, he will only get a modest raise on his $4.25 million salary, making it unquestionable for the Dodgers to keep him.

That said, the extent of Buehler’s recovery time will certainly impact the Dodgers’ season direction and inform the level of aggression with which they pursue rotational assistance. The Dodgers currently see Kershaw, Anderson and Heaney all capable of walking as free agents, so they’ll definitely be on board to start pitching a helping hand this season.

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