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Despite blister, Buehler expects to be himself

@kengurnick
October 5, 2020

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler and his blister held a Zoom call with reporters on the eve of his Tuesday start against the Padres in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington. “It’s good. Same as it has been,” Buehler said of the blistered

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler and his blister held a Zoom call with reporters on the eve of his Tuesday start against the Padres in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

“It’s good. Same as it has been,” Buehler said of the blistered right index finger that sidelined him twice in September and limited him to four innings in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series. “Myself and the training staff continue plugging away on it.”

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 LAD 5, SD 1 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 7 LAD 6, SD 5 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 8 LAD 12, SD 3 Watch

Buehler showed that he still had life on an upper-90s four-seam fastball against the Brewers last Wednesday. And the Dodgers showed they will continue trying to win now while looking ahead, threading the needle between unleashing Buehler for a limited time and yanking him quick enough when the blister heats up to be able to trot him out for the following series.

Buehler reached out to former teammate and blister guru Rich Hill, who told Buehler to treat the blister with low-level lasers that heal wounds, throw as much as tolerable with the blister covered and use the Rodeo Rub developed by former Dodgers trainer and rodeo cowboy Stan Johnston.

Buehler said he’s following the guidance of the Dodgers' assistant trainer and blister expert Yosuke “Possum” Nakajima.

“I’m just trying to not worry about it too much,” Buehler said. “Same routine. I expect to be myself, regardless of it. That’s just kind of how I operate. It is what it is. It’s something we’ve got to deal with and I’ve got to deal with. At the end of the day, my job is to perform, and that’s we’re trying to do.”

As for facing the Padres, Buehler pitched against them once early this season, when he admittedly wasn’t yet sharp, allowing solo home runs to Trent Grisham, Wil Myers and Fernando Tatis Jr. Perhaps from that experience, Buehler said there is more to beating the Padres than shutting down Tatis and former teammate Manny Machado.

“I don’t think you can just try to beat two guys and let the other seven guys run wild,” Buehler said. “They’ve got other guys that can do some damage.”

How will the park play?
The Dodgers won two of three games against the Rangers at Globe Life Field at the end of August. The Padres won both games they played in Arlington. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the offensive approach shouldn’t change in a pitcher-friendly ballpark where, Roberts said, the ball carries about 10 extra feet.

“Understanding what the ball does and does not do is one thing, but I don’t think the approach will change,” Roberts said. “You understand guys nowadays are trying to get the ball in the air, and I still think that’s what they’ll try to do. The turf doesn’t play fast, so there’s no benefit hitting the ball on the ground. Line drives always play. But I don’t think it’s going to change anyone’s approach.”

Mookie Betts said a bigger ballpark means there is room to build innings with hits instead of homers. Roberts said the Dodgers are versatile enough for that.

“I think we’ve done that at times,” Roberts said. “We have guys that can find the outfield grass and not just go for homers.”

Betts tips his cap
Tatis is often compared to Betts as a player that can impact a game in countless ways. What does Betts think about that?

“Obviously, a star. He does everything on a baseball field you could ask for,” Betts said of Tatis. “I wouldn’t necessarily compare him to me. We’re two different people. But he’s got all the tools, the smarts, he’s got everything. Definitely a lot of fun to watch. There’s also a lot of maturity there as well. Just got to tip your cap to anybody who’s that good and handles everything so well.”

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