Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Walker Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career on August 23, 2022, and now nine months later, he is already mapping out an eventual return to the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation.
The typical period to recover from elbow reconstruction surgery is 14-18 months, but Buehler is confident he will be able to return just over 12 months removed, with his eyes set on a Sept. 1 activation. The right-hander has already begun throwing bullpen sessions with the catcher standing up and they’ve gone well.
“So hopefully have the catcher down in a few weeks and kind of go from there,” Buehler said. “Hopefully, September 1, I guess, is still the goal for me. But I want to come up at a certain pitch count and things like that to where me being here is not a hindrance.
“So yeah, things are good so far. And it’s a long deal, but we’re two-thirds of the way, I guess.”
The next hurdle for Buehler is throwing bullpen sessions off the mound with the catcher squatting rather than standing up, which he expects to begin in about three weeks. But overall, the 28-year-old is happy with his progression so far.
“Yeah, I think at some point there’s like the throttling of how hard you’re throwing and stuff like that,” Buehler said. “But I feel really good and some of the trainers, I guess, want me to dial it back a little bit. But that’s just not how I operate. So yeah, things are good.”
Although it was expected Buehler would return in a relief role if he did pitch this season, he still plans to come back as a starter. “I don’t think anything has happened that would tell me like that’s not an achievable goal,” Buehler noted.
“Obviously, we’ve got 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 that I think I can provide the most value. So hopefully, everything’s good and my stuff’s good and I can get people out again, and then hopefully I can make some starts.”
However, with the possibility of a setback or any other hurdles that arise, the logistics of returning as a starter just may not be possible. If Buehler does run out of time to fully build up his arm, he would be open to potentially taking on a role out of the bullpen, but for now that’s not front of mind.
“I think until something happens that tells me I need to do that or consider that, I probably wouldn’t,” Buehler said. “But I mean, I’ve always kind of been one of the guys that takes the ball whenever, however I can. So you know, I think if something says that I need to try and be a reliever, then I will. But for now, there’s nothing saying that to me.”
While Buehler remains determined to return as soon as possible, the team seems less optimistic about that possibility. But the two-time All-Star is considering both his present and his future, which is pushing him to reach his goal.
“Rehab is probably the most selfish time you’re ever going to have,” Buehler said. “And so for me, it’s plotting the timeline that is going to put me in the best position to contribute when I’m back. So hopefully it all aligns and everything works its magic and I get to play at the end of the year.
“But I also have to try and look out for myself and the team here, right? I think the biggest thing is I want to be back healthy all of next year. So, this year, there’s definitely some exciting parts of playing at the end of this year and something I really want to do. But if I’m not good enough or not healthy enough, then I don’t think we’re going to try and jam a square peg into a round hole.”
Dave Roberts less confident about Walker Buehler returning
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is happy with the progress Buehler has made from a second Tommy John surgery, but he still isn’t fully convinced the club will add the right-hander to their rotation in September.
“That’s embedded in Walker, the confidence,” Roberts said. “So that’s not surprising. I think September 1 is pretty aggressive. I think today was a good day and we’ll see how Walker progresses. But like I said, that seems pretty aggressive. We’ll see.”
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