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Buehler past early-camp setback, near 1st start

@kengurnick
March 13, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Walker Buehler’s throwing session on Wednesday was overshadowed by the revelation that he came to Spring Training with an arm that “didn’t feel right,” making the likelihood that he'd be ready to start Opening Day “a little far-fetched.” “My arm didn’t feel like it was moving the

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Walker Buehler’s throwing session on Wednesday was overshadowed by the revelation that he came to Spring Training with an arm that “didn’t feel right,” making the likelihood that he'd be ready to start Opening Day “a little far-fetched.”

“My arm didn’t feel like it was moving the way I wanted it to,” said Buehler. “It’s not a pain thing, really, more like something doesn’t move perfectly. And the way I kind of work, I want everything to work correctly.”

Buehler and the club had been insisting he was being “slow-played” this spring because of last year’s spike in innings, but the story changed on Wednesday, first with manager Dave Roberts conceding the injury before Buehler threw two innings of batting practice, then Buehler confirming it.

“Hangover stuff from last year,” said Buehler, who added that he had discomfort from the start of his offseason throwing program. “Kind of comes and goes. I wasn’t feeling good often enough. Nothing scary, nothing alarming. Just wasn’t right.”

That makes two, as Clayton Kershaw is also behind schedule because of left shoulder inflammation. Buehler said he expects his next step to be his first spring game in four or five days. Kershaw is even further behind, scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday, then at least one batting practice session before his first game.

“It’s a weird deal, me and Kersh in the same boat,” said Buehler.

That’s one way to put it. With the acknowledgement that neither Buehler nor Kershaw will be adequately stretched out for a lengthy start the first time through the rotation, Roberts said they both still could be active when the season opens, as Ross Stripling could be used to piggy-back with either Buehler or Kershaw.

“The timing’s a little difficult,” said Buehler. “I fully plan to be a normal starting pitcher opening week, that’s our goal, that’s my goal. If it doesn’t happen, if it’s four innings or five or six, that’s fine. It’s all a matter of how I respond. [Opening Day], obviously that’s huge for anybody. Just given where we’re at and the pitch counts, it’s a little far-fetched.”

Roberts indicated that if Buehler and/or Kershaw were able to go four or five innings, that would be enough to start the season active.

“Appreciating where Clayton potentially will be and where Walker will be, it makes sense to continue to ramp Ross up,” he said. “Whether it’s a piggy-back situation or a starting situation, there’s no downside to having him built up to five [innings] and 75 [pitches].”

Roberts insisted he’s “not at all” concerned about Buehler’s health.

“Where we’re at right now, we’re not pressed to get him ready for Opening Day,” Roberts said. “We just want to get him healthy and get to the markers he wants to achieve. He’s healthy. Obviously, he’s not built up. Now he feels great. If all goes well, will he be ready for the season to start? Yes. That’s relative to how much he’s built up. We still have to make that decision.”

Roberts also implied that left-hander Julio Urias is more likely to be saved for later in the season. He said Urias’ innings will be capped, but he didn’t have a number.

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