GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed the club is "slow-playing" pitcher Walker Buehler early this spring, but insisted Buehler will be ready when the regular season opens."Walker had a tremendous year, a big-time workload," Roberts said of Buehler, the only Dodgers pitcher yet to throw a bullpen session
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed the club is "slow-playing" pitcher Walker Buehler early this spring, but insisted Buehler will be ready when the regular season opens.
"Walker had a tremendous year, a big-time workload," Roberts said of Buehler, the only Dodgers pitcher yet to throw a bullpen session in camp. "We're slow-playing him a little bit, but as far as the progression to get him ready for the season, he's right on track."
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The Dodgers have been mindful of the wiry Buehler's health ever since selecting him in the first round of the 2015 Draft and discovering he needed Tommy John surgery. He reported to camp last spring with a sore back and opened the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
"He's very in tune with what's in his best interest," said Roberts. "We're on the same page and understand he'll still be ready for the season. It's the best thing for him. With what he's shown and the way he's rebounded with the winter he's had, the plan is for him to be a regular starting pitcher."
In 24 games (23 starts) last season, Buehler was 8-5 with a 2.62 ERA. He fanned 151 batters and walked just 37 over 137 1/3 innings. The right-hander, who finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting, made four postseason starts in 2018, going 0-1 with a 3.80 ERA.
Buehler had already thrown four bullpen sessions before reporting and said he expects to resume them "soon."
• The initial announcements had Corey Seager "tracking" for Opening Day and maybe he still is, but the comments are subtly softening as the shortstop returns from major elbow and hip operations.
Roberts used words like "taking the long view" and "not have a sense of urgency because there's a natural healing process that has to take place."
"He'll be ready when he's ready," said Roberts. "The target date is Opening Day. Wherever it takes us when he's healthy, that's the goal. We're going to need him all year long."
Until Seager returns, the Dodgers expect Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernández to share shortstop duties.
• Ross Stripling, an All-Star last summer but looking for a role this spring, missed Friday's workout with an upper respiratory condition.
• Roberts almost announced that Clayton Kershaw would make his ninth Opening Day start, but didn't.
"I think we're thinking the same thing," Roberts said. "It's not official yet, but I think we know."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.