Buehler roughed up in return from DL
Righty allowed five earned runs in an inning-plus of work
LOS ANGELES -- Walker Buehler returned to the Majors on Thursday, as the Dodgers reinstated their prized right-hander from the 10-day disabled list.
But Buehler's restoration to the club didn't go as swimmingly as he'd have hoped. He incurred a losing decision, allowing five runs to score on five hits and a walk across one-plus innings during the Dodgers' 11-5 loss to the Cubs.
Buehler was blunt in describing his outing, taking ownership for his performance while crediting Chicago's strong lineup.
"Trying to get back in the swing of it," Buehler said. "Those guys are good. Can't make pitches like that to them."
The 23-year-old Buehler was originally scheduled to make a rehab start with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday. In fact, he was actually with Oklahoma City when he received a call informing him that he would make his return to action with the big league club instead.
His flight left the Oklahoma airport at 6:15 a.m. CT on Thursday morning, giving him less than 12 hours to prepare for his outing.
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw acknowledged the difficulty in trying to prepare in such a circumstance.
"We asked a lot out of Walker today," Kershaw said. "That was tough for him to fly back and then have to pitch out of the bullpen, and first time back out. … It was a lot."
Meanwhile, Buehler didn't chalk up his showing to travel or lack of recent in-game playing time.
"I'm 23," Buehler said. "I've done it before. I should be able to adjust that way."
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said ahead of Thursday's game that Buehler, who's been out with a microfractured rib, appeared pain-free during a 25-pitch bullpen session he threw Monday.
"We'll make sure he has a clean inning to start when he comes in," Roberts said at the time.
The skipper thought Buehler's velocity was good, noting that his pitch location betrayed him most. The absence of a good slider also hurt the young righty, in Roberts' estimation.
"There's some rust obviously, and he wasn't sharp," Roberts said. "But as far as the most important thing for Walker is, he came out of it -- as far as his ribs -- feeling fine."
Buehler remained much tougher on himself postgame. He said his ribs had healed enough that he should have performed better.
"You can call it rust all you want," Buehler said. "When you're in the Major Leagues, no amount of rust makes that acceptable."
Catcher Austin Barnes, who started Thursday, credited Buehler's accountability to competitiveness.
"I know he's frustrated," Barnes said. "He knows how good he is. He didn't start the way he wanted to. He just wanted to make sure he was relaxed and just realized the big side of the big picture to get out of this."
Added Kershaw: "Walker can handle a lot and we're not worried about him. He'll be just fine."
Buehler's reactivation marks the second such reversal by a Dodgers pitcher this week, after Kershaw bypassed his own rehab assignment to start against the Mets this past Saturday. The decision to activate Buehler was made after the Dodgers learned on Wednesday that right-hander Josh Fields was dealing with right shoulder inflammation.
Fields, who initially experienced discomfort following his outing against the Cubs on Tuesday, was placed on the 10-day DL in a corresponding move to Buehler's activation. In 10 appearances this month, Fields has been solid, posting a 2.35 ERA (two runs over 7 2/3 innings).
"He's been throwing the ball great," Roberts said, "but obviously, his body's in a certain place right now, so to acknowledge that ... I think that he'll be ready to come back when his days are up, and we'll get him back going."
Buehler's first stint in 2018 was exceptional, as he went 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA and a 2.26 FIP, holding opponents to a .203 batting average while also starting the Dodgers' combined no-hitter against the Padres on May 4 in Monterrey, Mexico.