Walker Buehler to undergo season-ending elbow surgery

The Dodgers announced Monday that the right-hander Walker Buehler he will undergo season-ending surgery on his right elbow on August 23. He has been out since June 10 after being diagnosed with a Grade 2 flexor strain. Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic tweet Buehler’s recent MRIs weren’t conclusive enough to determine the extent of the damage to his elbow, but Dr. Neal ElAttrache saw enough to recommend surgery. The Dodgers will presumably provide more details once the procedure is done.

Initially, that injury required a six- to eight-week layoff to pitch, and the Dodgers surely hoped Buehler could return in late September and/or perhaps in the postseason. Instead, he won’t pitch again until next season at the earliest. Further details are unclear as the team declined to provide details on the nature of the procedure in its initial announcement.

Buehler, 28, finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting last season but has now had multiple arm problems this season. Once it became clear the forearm strain would sideline Buehler for three months, he underwent an arthroscopic procedure to remove a bone spur from his elbow, a problem he said had plagued him for the past few seasons.

The arm problem(s) have limited Buehler to 65 innings in 2022, during which time he posted a 4.02 ERA with a career-low 21.2% strikeout rate. They’re pedestrian numbers by his lofty standards, both roughly in line with league-average production among MLB starting pitchers (4.09 ERA, 21.4% strikeout rate).

Since his first full season in the major leagues in 2018, Buehler has established himself as a rock in the Dodgers’ rotation and one of the most talented arms in the NL. He ranks 23rd in the majors in innings pitched between 2018 and 2022, even with this year’s excess time lost, and also ranks 7th in ERA (2.95), 25th in strikeout rate (27 %) and 32nd place in walk rate (6.2%). in the middle of a field of 152 qualified starting pitchers at the time.

For now, Buehler will join both Clayton Kershaw (lower back discomfort) and may powder (recovering from 2021 Tommy John surgery) on the disabled list. Both May and Kershaw plan to return before the end of the regular season. May recently hit 10 batters over five innings in his fifth Triple-A start of the season. He has built up to 70 pitches. Kershaw, meanwhile, recently underwent an epidural injection and has returned to pitching, though there is no immediate timetable for him to return to the major league mound.

With that trio on the shelf, the Dodgers will look Julius Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and rookie ryan petiot as rotation options, though Pepiot could soon be dropped in May. Even without a pair of big-name arms like Kershaw and Buehler, it’s a formidable group thanks to standout performances from Gonsolin (2.24 ERA, 116 1/3 innings pitched), Anderson (2.81 ERA, 128 1/3 innings) and Heaney ( 1.16 ERA, 32.3% strikeouts in 31 innings).

Obviously, not being able to include Buehler in a hopeful postseason rotation hurts, but the group of Urias, Gonsolin and Kershaw remains a formidable top three, with May, Anderson and Heaney likely playoff starters as well. The larger question for the Dodgers is what Buehler’s recovery and outlook will be for 2023.

Even in the event that Buehler required Tommy John surgery and had to miss most of the 2023 season, which, to be emphatically clear, has not been indicated or hinted at by the team, it would still be a lock to be tendered. a contract. The 2022 campaign was the second of a two-year, $8 million deal to buy out Buehler’s first two arbitration years. He will be eligible for arbitration four times as a Super Two player, meaning he has two raises left. Due to this year’s limited workload, he’s only due a modest $4.25MM salary increase, so it’s a no-brainer for the Dodgers to keep him in the fold.

That said, the extension of Buehler’s recovery period is sure to affect the Dodgers’ offseason direction and inform the level of aggression with which they look to the rotation for help. The Dodgers are currently hoping to see Kershaw, Anderson and Heaney walk potentially as free agents, so they’ll definitely be in the mix to help starting pitchers this offseason.

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