Dodgers Injury Update: Does Walker Buehler Need Tommy John Surgery?

Walker Buehler will undergo season-ending elbow surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday, Aug. 23, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are unaware of what procedure the right-hander will need at this moment.

Buehler was placed on the 15-day injured list on June 11 due to a right flexor tendon strain and shortly after that, he underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow. The operation was not expected to impact Buehler’s timeline as the recovery for the operation fell within the same timeframe as the initial injury.

The Dodgers were optimistic that Buehler would be able to return in September, but he continued to experience pain while throwing, so they made the decision to shut him down in hopes rest would bring relief. However, that didn’t occur and Buehler was sent for MRI.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts further elaborated that clarity on what surgery Buehler needs won’t become known until the procedure is being done, as seen on SportsNet LA:

“I don’t know what day it was, but as he was going through his throwing progression, he just couldn’t get past the discomfort. There was some sharpness in his arm, specifically the elbow. So we decided to go back in and get another MRI, look at it, and at that point in time, Dr. ElAttrache decided we needed to go back in and have surgery. … I don’t know the diagnosis. I really don’t. All I know is obviously he had the scope to kind of clean up some bone spurs, and as he went through his progression, the pain wouldn’t subside. So they went back in and whatever Dr. ElAttrache saw, felt that the best course of action was to go back in, to get surgery to really figure out what the problem is and fix it.”

Although Roberts could not definitively rule out Tommy John surgery for Buehler, he doesn’t believe it’s going to be necessary:

“I don’t think that’s a possibility. I think if that were the case, I think we would know that’s what they were going to do and that’s the intent of it. I could be wrong. From what I’ve understood from past pitchers, you kind of know when you’re going to have that surgery. But I don’t know that answer.”

If Buehler does indeed need Tommy John surgery, it would be the second time he has had the procedure, with the first coming shortly after being selected by the Dodgers as the 24th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.

Prior to his injury, Buehler was having his worst season to date, going 6-3 with a 4.02 ERA, 3.81 FIP and 1.29 WHIP across 65 innings pitched in 12 starts.

When will Walker Buehler return?

Losing the 28-year-old is certainly big for the Dodgers rotation come October, but they still have six capable starters who should be able to carry the load. The starting staff is led by Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Anderson, and will soon include Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw after their respective returns.

As for next year, when Buehler is cleared to pitch won’t become known until his surgery. If it is Tommy John, Buehler would miss the entire 2023 season.

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