Buehler to have season-ending elbow surgery

August 16th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- The Dodgers have the best record in the Majors. They have their sights set on a 10th consecutive postseason appearance and a second World Series title in three years.

But they’ll have to try to do it without Walker Buehler, who will have season-ending elbow surgery on Aug. 23, the Dodgers announced hours before their 4-0 win over the Brewers on Monday at American Family Field.

Despite not having Buehler on the mound since June, the Dodgers became the first team in the Majors to win 80 games.

“It’s certainly a blow,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said on Monday. “We’re better with Walker on our ballclub. But there’s just nothing we can do about it. I still believe that we have enough guys to get through October to prevent runs. But yeah, I mean, we wanted Walker to be a part of this.”

Roberts and the Dodgers gave vague answers when asked repeatedly about the type of surgery Buehler will be undergoing next Tuesday. The Dodgers’ manager did add, however, that he doesn’t expect it to be Tommy John Surgery. He said he could be wrong once Dr. ElAttrache begins the procedure, but that’s initially good news for the Dodgers and the right-hander.

What potentially isn’t good news is just how open-ended this injury appears to be.

If the Dodgers had a clear diagnosis, it would be easy to determine a reasonable timetable for Buehler’s return. But, as of now, there are a lot of questions and not enough answers. Roberts said the Dodgers will have more information after he undergoes the surgery.

“I don’t want to get ahead of what it possibly might or might not be,” Roberts said. “I think it’s fair because if we had clarity on what it was before going in, then you have a timeline. But right now we don’t. I think all of us would love to have complete clarity right now.”

The only clarity the Dodgers have is that Buehler won’t be part of their postseason run. Having their Opening Day starter back for the stretch run was always the goal after Buehler suffered a Grade 2 flexor strain on June 10.

Buehler played catch numerous times over the past few weeks. During his progression, he had extended to 120 feet, but consistent discomfort during the Dodgers’ last homestand forced the right-hander to shut things down. That’s when he underwent an MRI, which made it clear his season was over.

“We took a chance to try and take time off, start a projection to get him back for this year,” Roberts said. “Then, as he went through it, we couldn’t get over the hump. We took a shot at it and now we have to go in.”

As Roberts alluded, officially losing Buehler is a significant blow for the Dodgers, who elected not to trade for a starting pitcher at the Trade Deadline. Part of that thinking was they were hopeful to have a pitcher like Buehler back in the fold.

Without Buehler for the rest of the season, the Dodgers will continue to ask Julio Urías and Tony Gonsolin to lead the rotation heading into the stretch run. Dustin May, who makes his return from Tommy John Surgery on Aug. 20 against the Marlins, could also be a factor.

But in Buehler and Clayton Kershaw’s absence, Urías has been the pitcher who has stepped up to become the Dodgers’ ace.

The Mexican left-hander delivered again on Monday, tossing five scoreless innings despite not having his best stuff. In his past six starts, Urías has allowed four earned runs over 38 innings of work, good for a 0.95 ERA. His 2.40 ERA this season ranks him seventh in the Majors among qualified starters.

“I know he’s not an All-Star, but I mean, we got to be getting close to being in the Cy Young race here,” said Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman, who homered on Monday. “Left arms don’t come around like that very often. And we’re lucky enough to have him on our team and he’s been fantastic all season.”

Buehler had struggled this season when healthy, posting a 4.02 ERA over 12 starts. But few pitchers in the Majors have had the level of success Buehler has had when the lights come on in October.

Last October, Buehler was their workhorse, pitching on short rest twice, once in the NL Division Series against the Giants and again in the NLCS versus the Braves.

The Dodgers believe they have enough to withstand Buehler’s absence. Urías is doing his best to prove them right.

“We know what’s happening with Walker and he’s going to be someone that is missed by everyone,” Urías said in Spanish. “But we have the talent in the rotation. My focus is on giving it my 100 percent and whatever happens, happens.”