Expectations For Walker Buehler ‘Are Tempered’ In Dodgers Return

Walker Buehler is scheduled to make his return to the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Miami Marlins on Monday after missing nearly two years.

His second Tommy John surgery kept him out for quite some time, but the 29-year-old has done everything to get himself in a position to make his first start since June 10, 2022. Buehler has spent the early part of the year in the Minor Leagues, having made six starts between Oklahoma City and Rancho Cucamonga.

Results are less important in those outings, and Buehler’s status as once possessing triple-digit stuff isn’t at that level. But his health is seemingly in a good place, and his first taste of Major League Baseball since 2022 is his story to write.

Expectations can’t be placed, correct ones, at least. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts echos that sentiment, leaving Buehler’s Monday start in his hands.

“I don’t think anyone knows,” Robert said. “I think for me, the expectations are tempered in the sense of it’s his first start in so long, I’m just happy to see him out there.

“We feel good about it, we’ve checked all the boxes, and just go out there and compete. There’s going to be some nerves, some adrenaline, some emotion, but outside of that, just be Walker and try to get as many outs as he can to help us win a ballgame.”

During his rehab starts, Buehler’s stuff has been analyzed closely to see if there are any areas that he’s improved. The desire from Dodgers staff including Roberts is less focused on what that data actually shows, focusing more on how he feels.

“I think just sort of throwing the baseball, the way his body feels, better,” Roberts said. “I think leading up to the surgery, he was still kind of trying to get through things. So I think body wise, arm wise, he’s in a much better spot.

“As far as kind of the throw characteristics, all that stuff, I think he’s in a good spot. I really do. But you don’t really know until you see him out there against Major League hitters. But I think the velocity will be where it needs to be, we’ll see where the command is at, and kind of the teeth of his secondary. But I think he’s going to go out there and pitch well.”

The Dodgers don’t necessarily need Buehler to be fantastic out of the gate, as they’ve received solid length and production from their starting rotation.

In a walk year for Buehler, the Dodgers are sure to provide him with every opportunity to pitch and work through whatever he needs to at the Major League level, barring health. The good for the right-hander is his willingness to compete, couple that with his cutter usage and breaking ball feel, he could be effective.

Things to watch with Walker Buehler in his return

Unfortunately, Buehler’s four-seam is sitting around 93 mph, and he hasn’t received much swing-and-miss out of it. The spin rate on his primary pitch is down to 2236 rpm, but he’s started to level off around 2300, at times.

His cutter, slider and knuckle curve have all been more solid than his four-seam, which is something to note. Expect to seem him shift away from the heater if it begins to get hit, going more with a cutter-heavy approach.

Pitch count shouldn’t be much of an issue, as he’s breached the 75 pitch count mark in his build up.

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