Dodgers Spring Training: Walker Buehler Looking ‘Lively’ In Camp

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Walker Buehler has missed more than a year of game action, leaving the Los Angeles Dodger without one of the best big-game starting pitchers in all of baseball.

Buehler attempted to return from his second Tommy John surgery near the end of the 2023 season, but the Dodgers opted to hold off, declining to rush his timeline.

Buehler’s surgery took place on August 23, 2022, but many pitches have failed to come back from a second Tommy John operation, which gives the Dodgers good reason to be extra cautious.

The Dodgers also seem to be looking at the overall value of Buehler being ready to pitch down the stretch and into the postseason, rather than letting him start the year with the club but possibly be limited later.

Despite the slow process, there is optimism around Buehler, per MLB Insider Peter Gammons:

After Walker Buehler threw Wednesday, one longtime Buehler watcher expressed positive surprise at how easy, how lively he looked. “It’s been a long rehab,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a surprise.” Indeed, the surgery was 5/23/22, after his 16-4 ’22 season, and expects a May return.

— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) February 21, 2024

With Spring Training games officially underway, Buehler just advanced to face hitters on Tuesday, in somewhat of a surprise.

Buehler’s fastball was clocked around 92 mph in bullpen sessions but that it topped out at 95 mph during live batting practice. It was a positive development only days after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed some pause over Buehler’s progression.

“Walker looked good, (but) I think he’s still searching,” Roberts said on Sunday. “The ball is coming out well, but I think he needs another ‘pen. He’s still kind of in — not rehab mode — but he’s got to get to the point where you’re getting hitters out. He’s not quite there yet.

“He’s still working through some things in his delivery. He’ll get there. The most important thing is the teeth of the baseball is good and the life of the baseball coming out is good as well.”

Should the Dodgers re-sign Walker Buehler?

Buehler is scheduled to be a free agent following the 2024 season, and without a run of data since returning from surgery, this year is a huge selling point for his potential return.

The Dodgers bolstered their starting rotation with long-term commitments to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow and Shohei Ohtani, when he is clear to begin throwing.

Buehler could be destined for the open market, but if the club wants to keep him within the organization for another year to possibly elevate his value, there’s a level of familiarity that makes him staying an attractive pairing.

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