Walker Buehler just took a giant step forward.
The Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher is slated to begin a rehab assignment for the Triple-A affiliate Oklahoma City Dodgers this weekend, per Juan Toribio of MLB.com.
Buehler has been out of game action since undergoing Tommy John surgery last season, and Sunday will be the first time he takes the mound in a regulation game since June 10, 2022, when he threw five innings against the San Francisco Giants.
The 29-year-old right-hander has always made a return in 2023 his goal, and he may just do it given this development.
Given that he is only scheduled to throw just one or two innings, this final step in a year-plus rehabilitation process seems like an extended spring training of sorts. If that’s the course the Dodgers choose to take with Buehler, he could theoretically be back toward the end of September barring any setbacks.
As far as how he would handle Buehler’s usage upon his eventual return to the big leagues, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts all but shut the door on the former NL Cy Young Award candidate being used out of the bullpen, saying that he would hope to use him as a starter given that he’s used to that role.
“The hope is as a starter. That’s the expectation,” Roberts said. “I think the question remains how much of a buildup would it be? I think as a starter, there’s more certainty on when you’re gonna be pitching. That’s the routine that he’s used to. So that’s where all of our heads are at.”via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register
It remains to be seen how Buehler responds to pitching in game action for the first time in over a year, but if the Dodgers were to get him back in the rotation in time for the playoffs, it’d be a huge boost for a team needing reliable depth since Tony Gonsolin was recently ruled out for the season — and potentially beyond.
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports