Worst fears were realized in late August when Walker Buehler underwent a second Tommy John surgery while also having his right flexor tendon repaired by Dr. Neal ElAttrache to bring an end to his 2022 season.
Although Tommy John comes with a prolonged recovery period, the 28-year-old has not ruled out returning near the end of the 2023 season, even if it remains unlikely. “I think all of this is subjective,” Buehler said in his first comments since having his right elbow operated on.
“The timeline for a return to play, what does that mean for each individual guy? And what capacity? Are they trying to throw 110 pitches and go deep into games? I don’t necessarily think that’s a realistic goal for September 1st, or 12 months from my surgery date.
“I just don’t think that is, but I’m not ruling it out. And I also don’t want to sit and tell anyone I’ll be back next year. I don’t think there’s anything that has told me that me pitching in some capacity, no way it will happen.”
Some reason for optimism that Buehler can return is the Dodgers and Dr. ElAttrache were encouraged by the results of the surgery. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman described it as going “as well as could be expected.”
Buehler also has an understanding of what the rehab process requires. “I’ve done this rehab pretty successfully once before, so I think that gives you a little bit of confidence,” he said.
“But at the same time, it is the second one. The numbers aren’t quite as clear cut or in your favor as the first one, but when you’ve got the best surgeon in the world saying he feels good about it, I think that on top of being in an organization like this that takes care of its players, it’s going to help me get the best rehab I can and make sure mentally I feel good.
“If you’re going to have to have a second Tommy John, I think I’m in about as good of position that could be expected.”
Nathan Eovaldi contacted Walker Buehler
Following the surgery, Buehler talked to Boston Red Sox and former Dodgers pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who previously underwent a second elbow reconstruction of his own.
“There’s not that many of them,” Buehler replied when asked if he talked to any pitchers who had Tommy John surgery twice. “Nathan Eovaldi reached out to me, which was pretty cool.
“I’m probably forgetting someone else, but first on my mind is that’s the guy who’s had two of them and had some success afterwards. Seeing that from across the field in ’18 and since, I think his arm is fine. That’s nice and really cool of him to reach out.”
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