The Los Angeles Dodgers naming Walker Buehler their Opening Day starter was a decision that didn’t come as a shocking nor felt undeserving.
Buehler has been what feels like an ‘ace’ for years now, and the numerous big-game performances under his belt match those often associated with a true No. 1 starting pitcher. Buehler has been in the big leagues since 2018 and already started 15 postseason games and logged a 2.94 ERA over 79.2 innings in October.
But his 2022 Opening Day start will be a career first for Buehler. Clayton Kershaw has been the Dodgers’ de facto Opening Day starter all but two times since 2011, with only injuries requiring change for L.A.
That type of history in mind, Buehler acknowledge there’s an added meaning to effectively taking the Opening Day torch from Kershaw, via Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:
“Obviously his run of opening days here and being as good as he’s been is something that we’re all extremely envious of and look up to him in a lot of ways,” Buehler said. “It’s kind of cool to be the next guy that does it.”
Learning and observing the demeanor of arguably the best pitcher of this generation in Kershaw is definitely something that has influenced Buehler, and rightfully landed him on many top-10 lists since his debut.
Buehler enjoyed his best season in 2021 with a 2.47 ERA over 207.2 innings, to go along with 212 strikeouts and a 165 ERA+. Aside from a few bumpy outings, Buehler spent much of the year at the top of National League Cy Young Award consideration.
Buehler defers to Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace
The Dodgers have had a surplus of elite starting pitching the past few seasons and currently have a rotation that includes some of the league has to offer in Buehler, Julio Urias, and Kershaw.
As Kershaw enters the waning seasons of his career on a one-year contract that could potentially be his final season with the Dodgers, Buehler is just entering his prime.
However, Buehler says that as long as Kershaw is wearing a Dodgers uniform, he is the ace of the staff.
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