Despite being another year removed from Tommy John surgery, the Los Angeles Dodgers handled Walker Buehler with caution last season. The goal was to manage his innings so the right-hander was in position to contribute throughout 2018 and into the postseason.
Buehler tested the patience behind the plan, as he rose to the caliber of staff ace during stretches of the season. Though, a fractured rib required a stint on the disabled list and by de facto limited Buehler’s innings.
His success was particularly paramount as it helped the Dodgers withstand the loss of Clayton Kershaw to multiple injuries. Buehler finished third in voting for 2018 National League Rookie of the Year. He figures to slot in behind Kershaw in the starting rotation come Opening Day.
But despite that, manager Dave Roberts revealed the Dodgers are still easing Buehler along in Spring Training, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“Walker had a tremendous year, a big-time workload,” Roberts said of Buehler, the only Dodgers pitcher yet to throw a bullpen session in camp. “We’re slow-playing him a little bit, but as far as the progression to get him ready for the season, he’s right on track.”
“He’s very in tune with what’s in his best interest,” said Roberts. “We’re on the same page and understand he’ll still be ready for the season. It’s the best thing for him. With what he’s shown and the way he’s rebounded with the winter he’s had, the plan is for him to be a regular starting pitcher.”
With pitchers and catchers in their first week of workouts at Camelback Ranch, the 24-year-old has yet to thrown an official bullpen session. Buehler did complete several bullpens prior to reporting for Spring Training.
This now marks a second consecutive year where his workout schedule has been a bit interrupted. Buehler dealt with back soreness last spring and wound up beginning the season as a member of the Triple-A Oklahoma City season.
He’s coming off a year in which he logged a combined 177 innings between the Minors and Majors (postseason included). The expectation is for Buehler to pitch without an innings limit this season and reach around 200 frames.