Notes: Buehler sees uptick; May tinkering
Walker Buehler has already established himself as one of the game’s front-line starters, but he understands there is still plenty of work to do, especially during Spring Training.
“I think everyone wants to be better,” Buehler, 26, said. “I think probably the area of improvement for me is to be good early in the year, throughout the year, and then still be able to do what I want and what the team needs at the end of the year.”
In 2019, Buehler had a 5.22 ERA through his first six starts and a 2.88 ERA in the final 24. Last season, he had a 5.21 ERA in his first four starts of the regular season and a 1.53 mark in his final four.
He had a 1.80 ERA in five starts during the 2020 postseason, striking out 39 in 25 innings.
“I do believe that you are always trying to evolve,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after Friday’s 9-2 win against Cleveland. “Hitters are changing. Sometimes, your pitch mix changes. That’s ever-evolving. I do think that where [Buehler] is as a front-line pitcher, his track record speaks for itself.”
Buehler cruised through the first two innings on 24 pitches and gave up two runs on three hits in the third inning. In all, he was charged with two runs on five hits in three innings. He struck out four in the 44-pitch outing.
“It’s a step forward and I felt better today than I have previously,” Buehler said. “I obviously don’t want to give up runs, but for the most part, I felt pretty good, made some better pitches and had a little more swing-and-miss in there.”
The right-handed pitcher allowed one hit and struck out one in two scoreless innings against the Giants in his first start of spring on March 2. He was charged with four runs -- including two home runs -- on five hits in three innings against the Rangers in the start that followed. He also struck out one Texas hitter.
Buehler, who anticipates throwing at least four innings in his next start, was followed by veteran David Price. Price allowed one hit in three scoreless innings. He struck out two and walked one batter.
The Dodgers decided to give outfielder Mookie Betts an extra day off and scratched him from the lineup against Cleveland on Friday. He will resume Cactus League play Sunday against the Royals after Saturday’s off-day, Roberts said.
“There’s nothing up with Mookie,” Roberts said. “We talked in the morning and just felt it would be best for him to stay at the facility and work on some things."
So far this spring, Betts has five hits in 14 at-bats during eight games. He has scored four runs.
“It's status quo. He looks strong,” Roberts said. “It's always a thing early in spring, where you're trying to make sure your mechanics, your swing is right. But in the outfield and body, everything is good so far.”
May doing work
Dustin May, who is competing for a spot in the rotation and might make the team out of the bullpen, is expecting to return to Cactus League play sometime next week.
He threw in a “B” game this week and has been limited to bullpen sessions, in part because he was working on his mechanics, but primarily because the club wanted the flexibility to have him throw three or four innings and stretch him out for the season.
May’s last appearance in a Cactus League game came on March 2 when he allowed one hit, walked one batter and struck out two in two scoreless innings against the Giants.
“I was just kind of falling down the mound instead of driving down the mound,” May said. “So just being able to stay back in my back leg and getting the force toward home that I need to.”
Last season, May posted a 2.57 ERA in 12 games (10 starts). He struck out 44 batters in 56 innings and had a 19.1 percent whiff rate -- swinging strikes per swings -- compared to the MLB average of 26.7 percent. He had a 10 percent whiff rate on pitches 100 mph or higher compared to the MLB average of 34.4 percent.
“My main goal is just making the club on Opening Day,” May said. “Hopefully, I'm doing enough as we go on forward to be able to do that. But that's out of my control -- whatever role it is. I can’t tell you what role it is or isn’t.”