Last week, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced right-hander Walker Buehler would undergo season-ending elbow surgery on Aug. 23. The exact nature of the surgery was unknown at the time, but, on Tuesday, Buehler revealed he required his second career Tommy John surgery. The timing suggests he will miss the entire 2023 season.
Buehler made the Tommy John surgery announcement himself on Instagram:
Buehler had not pitched in the majors since June 10, just days before he underwent an operation to have bone chips removed from his throwing elbow. The National League West-leading Dodgers were hopeful he could return ahead of the stretch run and the 2022 postseason, but that will not be the case.
These days Tommy John surgery comes with a 14-16 month rehab timetable, though it can be longer for the second Tommy John surgery. Buehler had his first Tommy John surgery soon after being drafted in the first round in 2015. Barring any setbacks, he should be able to return for spring training in 2024. That will be his final season before becoming a free agent.
Buehler, 28 years old, appeared in just 12 games this season, pitching to a 4.02 ERA (103 ERA+) and 58 strikeouts in 65 innings. The two-time All-Star finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting last year after accumulating a 2.47 ERA (169 ERA+) and a 4.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio in a career-high 207 innings pitched.
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Buehler's absence for the rest of the season is a blow to the Dodgers, who are also without left-hander Clayton Kershaw (lower back discomfort) for the time being. Young right-hander Dustin May recently returned from his own Tommy John surgery.
As it stands, the Dodgers playoff rotation seems likely to feature some combination of Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Anderson. Of course, much can change over the coming month-plus, and it's possible that the Dodgers will end up using May or rookie Ryan Pepiot instead if they feel a right-hander matchups up better with their postseason opponents.
The Dodgers entered Tuesday with an 84-37 record on the season, giving them the top mark in all of Major League Baseball. The Dodgers' plus-260 run differential is also the best in the sport, with only one other team (the New York Yankees) falling within 100 runs of that output.