Andrew Friedman: Dodgers Betting On Walker Buehler ‘Being Really Good’

The Los Angeles Dodgers loaded up the frontend of their starting rotation with Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow after a season in which they didn’t have an ace come October. The pair should carry a lot of the load this season while providing consistent back-to-back starts.

The club is also expecting Walker Buehler to return from Tommy John surgery as he enters the final year of his current contract with the Dodgers. The 29-year-old had been one of the best starters in all of baseball prior to the injury in 2022.

From 2017 through 2021, Buehler posted a 2.90 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, with a .204 batting average allowed. But in 2022, multiple areas of his game regressed, a likely precursor to Buehler requiring a second Tommy John surgery.

A late-season comeback attempt in 2023 was halted as the Dodgers instead looked ahead to this year as a fresh runway. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is optimistic Buehler will be a key contributor but is not setting the bar too high in his return, per Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:

“We’ll bet on him being really good next year,” Friedman said. “But it’s also not something that all of our hopes and dreams for 2024 are going to be resting on his shoulders.”

Buehler moving from the first or second in the rotation to the fourth option to start out is an opportune role. If he produces at a high level, Buehler’s usage could be expanded based on how well his arm responds to the workload.

He’s recently shed some light into his offseason workouts, noting that he feels great and should be a full-go when the new season kicks off.

What can Dodgers expect from Walker Buehler in 2024?

In adding both Glasnow and Yamamoto to the starting rotation, the Dodgers pushed back Bobby Miller and Buehler.

At different points last season, Miller was the team’s most consistent starter in that he took the mound every time he was called upon. The expectation for Buehler is that he may be on an innings limit, while also auditioning for future opportunities once his current contract is up.

Coming off his second Tommy John surgery, Buehler joined the likes of current Texas Rangers’ starter Nathan Eovaldi in right-handers with high-powered stuff that underwent two procedures.

Eovaldi’s return from surgery in 2018 was terrific, opening the early part of the year for the Tampa Bay Rays and going on to become a key piece of the Boston Red Sox World Series run. Of course, his instance is a best-case scenario. But because of Buehler’s past dominance, his ceiling is certainly of that same air.

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