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Buehler sharp, hits 99 mph in Cactus debut

@kengurnick
March 20, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Everything about Walker Buehler is special, even the way he rebounds from injury. Making a first Spring Training start that was delayed until Tuesday night by arm discomfort, Buehler threw 2 2/3 innings for the Dodgers in a 4-2 loss to the Indians and was pulled after

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Everything about Walker Buehler is special, even the way he rebounds from injury.

Making a first Spring Training start that was delayed until Tuesday night by arm discomfort, Buehler threw 2 2/3 innings for the Dodgers in a 4-2 loss to the Indians and was pulled after reaching the 46-pitch mark. He was charged with one run that scored with Yimi Garcia on the mound, allowed three hits, struck out two and topped out at 99 mph.

“Walker was where we hoped he would be tonight,” said manager Dave Roberts. “I thought he was amped up, rightfully so, and missing up. But as far as the way the ball was coming out, very pleased. To get that pitch count up, it was a positive night for him and for us.”

Buehler is scheduled to pitch again on Monday in the Freeway Series against the Angels (four innings or 60 pitches) and will likely make his first regular-season start March 30 or 31 against the D-backs.

Buehler said he didn’t feel bad about being passed over for the Opening Day start when it was decided that Clayton Kershaw, who also experienced shoulder issues in camp, would begin the season on the injured list. No Game 1 starter has been named yet, but Buehler has been ruled out.

“I’m just happy to make a team out of camp – this is my first time,” Buehler said.

Buehler said being ready for the first turn through the rotation isn’t in doubt, as far as he’s concerned, after throwing all of his pitches. Despite lacking pinpoint command, he didn’t look like a rehab project.

“Yeah, at some point you've got to be ready to go. I'll be fine," he said. “I told you guys a while back -- once I'm kind of going, I'm going. As long as I get the feel, I think I'll be fine.

“Tonight I was a little all over the place, but it’ll get better. First time things speed up a little. Made some good pitches and some bad ones. I felt good and the ball was coming out of my hand good.”

Buehler allowed singles to Hanley Ramirez and Tyler Naquin to open the game, but pitched out of the jam. He went 1-2-3 in the second inning with the two strikeouts.

“I thought in the second inning he settled down,” said Roberts.

In the third inning, Joc Pederson ran down a Ramirez drive at the fence, but Naquin singled again and Buehler was removed. Garcia allowed a pair of hits and the run was charged to Buehler.

“Pitching against those guys is a good litmus test for where I’m at,” Buehler said.

Roberts said that with an eight-man bullpen, the Dodgers can pick up the leftover innings as Buehler builds arm strength. Buehler’s second regular-season start will come after the club’s first scheduled day off on April 4, not only giving Buehler an extra day of rest, but the bullpen as well.

“At that point in time, we can have people that can piggy-back him and finish a game,” said Roberts, who expects to have Julio Urias in the bullpen and rested for a Buehler start.

Roberts said he has no hesitation trusting that Buehler will be ready on such a short run-up to the season.

“The health component, which we’re certain if you build him up the right way, which we’re doing, and when he does make his start there are certain expectations,” Roberts said, implying a pitch limit. “And the performance, I think he answered those questions last year.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.