Buehler shut down for remainder of '23 season

September 8th, 2023

WASHINGTON -- Dodgers right-hander , who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, was hopeful that he could return at some point in the 2023 season. 

But on Friday, Buehler and the Dodgers came to the decision that he will not return this year, and they are shifting their focus to having him back on the mound fully healthy to start the 2024 season. Buehler’s last game in the Majors was on June 10, 2022.

"My goal since last year has been to return to a Major League mound this season," Buehler said in a statement posted by the Dodgers. "After many conversations with my doctor, the Dodgers' front office, training staff and my family, we concluded that waiting until next season is the right course of action. I am disappointed that I will not be able to help this team go after a title in the 2023 postseason, but I look forward to returning fully healthy in 2024 and bringing another World Series to L.A."

Buehler’s progression over the past few months had been encouraging to the Dodgers. The right-hander set a Sept. 1 target date for himself, which was always unrealistic and aggressive. But that got him through a two-inning rehab start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday. He struck out two against Round Rock on 24 pitches (15 strikes).

However, as Buehler was gearing up for a second rehab outing, the recovery between starts wasn’t coming as effortlessly for him. There was no setback for the right-hander, just the natural soreness that comes from recovering from the surgery. 

Buehler was originally scheduled to start on Friday for OKC, but once both sides realized it wasn’t realistic, they decided to have a deeper conversation. That’s when it was determined that there wasn’t as much upside in rushing him back this season. Buehler is a free agent at the end of the 2024 season. 

“I think that No. 1, just to try to understand and appreciate the process of coming back from Tommy John surgery is obviously very difficult,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Given where we’re at on the schedule, where we’re at in his progression, I think we all just came to the decision that it was best to not try to force something to potentially affect him next year and beyond for his career.

"Obviously, Walker is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever seen, and his expectation was to come back, but I do think it’s the right decision for him, which is most important. And [I] expect him back for 2024 100 percent healthy.”

In 2021, his last full season, Buehler went 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA and 212 strikeouts, finishing fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting. The 29-year-old is a two-time All-Star and helped lead Los Angeles to a World Series championship in 2020.

Without Buehler this season, the Dodgers are in first place in the NL West and have the second-best record in the NL behind the Braves at 85-54. Still, not having Buehler the rest of the way does throw another wrench in Los Angeles’ postseason plans. 

Right now, the Dodgers are leaning on Clayton Kershaw, who is still not fully healthy, Lance Lynn, who has had a rough campaign, and rookie Bobby Miller, who has been the team’s most consistent starter for a few months but is on track to throw more innings this year than in any other season as a professional.  

“There’s a lot of things up in the air that we didn’t expect,” Roberts said. “I think it’s just trying to manage each of them separately. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that, but there are still some things we’re still trying to figure out and work through, as far as players.”