Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers have addressed their starting rotation in a big way by trading for Tyler Glasnow and signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and they’ll also receive another boost with Walker Buehler returning from injury.
The 29-year-old hoped to pitch at the backend of last season, but his effort to return from his a right flexor tendon repair and second Tommy John surgery fell short. Buehler admitted it was difficult to watch his teammates in the playoffs, knowing he wanted to contribute in the National League Division Series.
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts discussed Buehler’s roadmap and how they’re in a wait-and-see mode with his veteran starter.
“I owe him a phone call,” Roberts began. “I think he’s doing well. He’ll be ready to go in Spring Training, but when we decide to make his debut in 2024 is going to be determined. You know, whether it’s the first week or a month later, we’re going to kind of wait and see how spring goes.”
The Dodgers’ reliance on healthy starting pitchers was their Achilles heel in 2023, so they head into the upcoming year with the hope they’ll have a full arsenal of arms late in the season. Buehler factors into their postseason hopes, but because he’s coming off his second major elbow surgery, that will play into how much he’s used early on.
The club could look to delay the start of his season, or they could also give him a break at some point during the season. They’ll also look to get him out of games earlier than they normally would when they have the chance.
“It’s a combo,” Roberts said about how they’ll manage Buehler. “It’s what’s best to have him being able to finish the season with bullets left. So, you could argue start and have a stop or an abbreviation throughout the season, or you could argue just start a little bit later so there’s no pause. So, there’s no right answer, obviously Walker’s going to be a big part of the conversation and then we’ll be all in on that.”
Allowing Buehler to find a rhythm next season for extended periods of time could be their best bet, while also allowing him to contribute down the stretch.
Buehler last pitched on June 10, 2022, against the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers are hopeful that the long layoff will have allowed his arm to heal, with the best outcome being he returns as a solid front of the rotation starter.
How Walker Buehler can make impact for Dodgers in 2024
The expectation for Buehler is to slot in the middle of the Dodgers’ rotation, but that is dependent on how good he looks overall with his health and mechanics.
Buehler joined a growing list of starters to undergo multiple Tommy John surgeries, and his ceiling for innings could have a hard cap.
The Dodgers won’t ask Buehler to be the front end arm, as they needed him to be prior to his recent injury. The addition of Glasnow and Yamamoto provides the team with their top two options, so they won’t need to rely on Buehler to push himself too much.
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