Whether in Spring Training or the regular season, Walker Buehler has developed an early reputation as being a slow starter. The Los Angeles Dodgers have appeased their young right-hander and voiced confidence his process ultimately will lead to successful outings.
After shaky starts his first two times out, Buehler made progress against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, even if it came with four leadoff walks over 5.2 innings pitched. Buehler managed to weave his way through traffic and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning.
“Obviously the four leadoff walks are not what you’re trying to do, but stuff was better and located outside of those (walks) a lot better,” Buehler said. “Just a little bit erratic. I think at times you can get a little bit of that effectively wild kind of thing that happens in this game.
“I would’ve liked to have been a little crisper, especially to lead off innings. In all I feel pretty good about it.”
Buehler relied on an electric fastball en route to collecting six strikeouts. He moved it in and out of the zone and seemingly found more comfort when pitching out of the stretch.
“Kind of a tale of two games for me,” Buehler said. “The leadoff stuff is what it is, four walks, you don’t feel great about it, there were a lot of bad fastballs. And then get in the stretch and kind of letting some balls go and sequencing closer to the way I normally do.
“I think there was some improvement in the conviction and maybe hiding the ball a little bit better. I feel good about it, it’s another step forward and hopefully we’ll do better next time.”
Buehler set season highs innings pitched and strikeouts, and for the first time in three starts did not allow a home run. The pattern is reminiscent of last season, which Buehler alluded to when dissecting his start against the Giants.
“I think I was really, really, really bad for three or four, maybe even five outings last year,” he said. “Today wasn’t my best outing by any means but I feel encouraged. On a team that’s this good, you kind of just don’t want to mess it up. I didn’t mess it up too bad today. Keep trying to get to where I want to be, and I don’t think that changes from Start 1 to Start 30. Especially after the last two, I tried to take a step forward.
“There are some clear-cut things I want to improve. Execution-wise, I think the first couple games are more about how you’re moving and things like that. More so than the first two games I kind of felt like I knew what I was doing. I just feel a little more comfortable.”
Missing arm side
Prior to the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the club was hoping to see Buehler repeat his delivery with more consistency. That didn’t necessarily manifest itself, and Roberts agreed with Buehler’s opinion that his start was ‘erratic.’
But the 26-year-old nonetheless found a silver lining with some of the command issues as well. “I had some arm-side misses and things like that, which is more normal for me. I think I kind of miss high and arm side a little bit,” he said.
“In San Diego and Houston, it was more the pull miss that was frustrating me just because it’s not normal. There’s an acceptable level of misfire that you have to live with in some way. I think if you can do that to one side or one way, you can fix it. When you’re missing both ways, it becomes a little more difficult.
“[Sunday], I think my misses were high and arm side, which is very fixable and a normal miss for me. In San Diego, spiking heaters, pulling heaters, and the same thing in Houston, that’s where the frustration came from. Kind of knowing where I’m at and knowing these high-arm misses are normal for me, kind of gives me a little bit of comfort.”
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