The Los Angeles Dodgers received clarity on the status of Walker Buehler, who was previously shut down for the season and wound up requiring Tommy John surgery for a second time. Buehler also had his right flexor tendon repaired.
Along with missing the remainder of the 2022 season, he will miss most of, if not the entire the 2023 season.
While the Dodgers and Buehler received the outcome they were hoping to avoid, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the surgery went as well as they “could have possibly expected.” He also added that Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the surgery, is confident they were able to get Buehler’s elbow “back in good order.”
Part of Friedman’s optimism stems from the degree to which Buehler’s arm was injured. Although Tommy John surgery is a major operation, the soft tissue and ligaments around his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) were in overall good shape.
“So from that standpoint, it actually turned out as well as could be expected,” Friedman said. “But we knew there was a real chance of it. I can’t remember many other instances in my career where the MRI has been inconclusive enough to have to go in and see exactly what it looks like. But I think that probably speaks to how much good there was around it as well.”
While many pitchers end up undergoing Tommy John surgery at some point in their career, the list of players who needed it a second time is much smaller. However, Friedman has confidence in Buehler because of the track records of the pitchers who have had two Tommy John surgeries and Dr. ElAttrache’s expertise.
“The data on those guys is actually really good,” Friedman said. “Looking at that, a surgeon matters. And we feel really good with our guys being in Dr. ElAttrache’s hands. He’s as good as it gets. I think the issues that have come from second-time Tommy John, is more technique related and stuff that Dr. ElAttrache is all over. Again, feel very fortunate we have our guys in his hands.”
The recovery process for pitchers who undergo the procedure twice generally have longer timelines. Despite that, Friedman believes there is extra context needed, so it doesn’t necessarily affect Buehler, whose arm is in an overall good spot considering the outcome.
“I think it has a lot to do with the actual surgery, what went into it, how the tissue was around it,” Friedman noted. “I think there are a lot of factors that go into it. And then also, how the progression is going. Some of those things we’re not going to know for a while.
“But the most important bit of information from today was it went as well as it possibly could have.”
Dodgers were aware Buehler might not return
Although the Dodgers kept their hope that Buehler could return this season before they officially shut him down, Friedman said the club was aware their ace had a chance to miss the rest of the year and tried to plan for that.
“I think from our standpoint, we’re seeing early focus right now on 2022, through September and into October,” Friedman said. “We knew months ago that there was a real chance that he wasn’t going to come back this year, and so we’ve been planning accordingly.
“Once we get to the offseason, we’ll start turning our attention to 2023. But obviously, it’s a big blow for us now and it’s a big blow for us next year as well.”
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