Buehler 'evolving' in return from second Tommy John

June 14th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio’s Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

LOS ANGELES -- Before his second Tommy John surgery, the plan was relatively simple for . He had a plethora of pitches to choose from, but when the going got a little tough, he was going to gear back and likely throw a four-seam fastball past an opposing hitter.

In his first seven starts since returning from the injured list -- his first outings since 2022 -- Buehler has realized he’s going to have to go about getting outs in different ways. The four-seamer hasn’t had the same power it did before the injury, as best evidenced when former Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager demolished a 3-2 four-seamer off Buehler on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of stuff,” Buehler said. “The movement and all that stuff, like what the TrackMan will tell you is largely similar to where it had been or at times in my career where I’ve been successful, it’s been similar. I just think there’s a little bit less on it. ... Hopefully at some point [it is] kind of the same [as before], but yeah, it’s just hard [right now].”

Buehler has been his harshest critic since getting back on the mound. He has said a few times how frustrating not getting the results he craves have been on him. But the reality is it’s only been seven starts for Buehler. The Dodgers knew it would take Buehler time to get going. It’s what happens with just about every pitcher that went through a second Tommy John surgery. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what works best.

“Obviously, I’m frustrated and we have so much talent and so many good starting pitchers,” Buehler said. “It’s not easy to be OK, like running out trying to figure it out all the time. I’ve said it before, I’ve said said it again. I’ve thrown big games here. I want to throw big games here. I’m not used to being the one that’s far behind and that’s kind of the reality of it. I’m doing everything I can to figure it out.”

In his last outing, Buehler mixed up his pitches. He threw 32 cutters and 31 sinkers, going almost completely away from the four-seamer, throwing that pitch just five times. Buehler also mixed in some changeups, his curveball and a slider.

According to Buehler, the slider was a newer pitch and one he worked on throughout the week and into his bullpen. In his next start, maybe he uses it. Maybe he doesn’t. It’s all part of his constant search of figuring things out.

“I think he’s in the process of evolving,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “You know, it’s easy for him to put his head in the sand and go with what he’s always done. But the truth of the matter is he’s not exactly the same pitcher after the second Tommy John and you know, when you’re pitching in big league games, you have to find a way to get hitters out.

“He’s doing a great job of checking his ego at times and to kind of appreciate the fact that the hitters tell you what needs to change, what doesn’t need to change and he’s doing a good job.”