Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation suffered a major loss last season when Walker Buehler needed to undergo a second Tommy John surgery along with a right flexor tendon repair.
Prior to that point the Dodgers were hopeful Buehler would return from a right forearm strain suffered in June. Prior to Tommy John, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow.
The procedure was not expected to impact Buehler’s timeline for a return as it fell within the same timeframe as the initial forearm strain injury. That wound up being a moot point as Buehler ultimately needed his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) repaired, which put the 2023 season in question as well.
However, Buehler is pleased with his recovery process thus far and is nearing the start of a throwing program as he hopes to return this year, per Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“I feel pretty good with where I’m at,” said the right-hander, who also underwent the ligament-replacement surgery shortly after he was drafted by the Dodgers in 2015.
“Really, I don’t remember a ton about how I felt or whatever (during the first rehab). But I feel good that we’re on track to throw right around that six-month mark. I know with the second one, that can kind of be a little bit longer process. But all the numbers and strength and all that seem to be where they need to be.”
Before the Tommy John surgery, Buehler went 6-3 with a 4.02 ERA and 1.29 WHIP across 12 starts. His strikeout rate was noticeably down, but Buehler finished with six in his final outing of 2022, tying for third-most in any start last year.
During the offseason, Buehler was among several players the Dodgers signed to a one-year contract to avoid arbitration for 2023. His reported salary is $8.025 million, which is slightly less than the $8.1 million projection from MLB Trade Rumors.
Buehler faces a final year of salary arbitration before potentially becoming a free agent after the 2024 season.
Can Walker Buehler return in 2023?
Considering the recovery for Tommy John surgery historically is at least 12 months, and longer when it is the second such operation, Buehler faces long odds to return during the 2023 season.
However, continuing to trend in the right direction could see the right-hander back on the mound, even if it’s in a reduced capacity.
“Having Walker healthy is valuable in any sense,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said this week. “I don’t know what that looks like right now.”
Buehler, J.P. Feyereisen and Blake Treinen were placed on the 60-day injured list Thursday.
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