Walker Buehler will not return for the Dodgers this season.
The team announced on Monday that the pitcher, who has been out with an elbow injury since June, will undergo an end-of-season surgery on his elbow next week.
The procedure is performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Buehler suffered what the team called a flexor tendon strain in his right elbow during a start against the San Francisco Giants in June.
Buehler was out for six weeks — he also had an unrelated bone spurs removed from his elbow during that time — then began a throwing program late last month.
He had hoped to return in some capacity for the stretch run and postseason, aiming for a return in late September that might have given him the chance to throw out the bullpen in October.
However, those hopes have now been dashed with Monday’s news, which dealt a major blow to the Dodgers pitching staff less than two months before the start of the playoffs.
“We took the opportunity to try and take time off, make some progress to get him back this year,” said manager Dave Roberts. “When he went through, we couldn’t get over the bump. We tried and now we have to go in [for surgery].”
While the implications of Buehler’s injury are clear, Roberts’ explanation on the exact matter on Monday was vague.
He said the righthander felt some discomfort in his elbow clearance last week, prompting him to undergo an MRI.
The results of the MRI weren’t clear enough to determine the exact problem, but with Buehler already not progressing as well as the team had hoped, said Roberts ElAttrache — the Dodgers’ team physician and one of the most prominent orthopedic surgeons in the United States. sports – recommended surgery.
“What Dr. ElAttrache also, he felt the best course of action was to go back in, have surgery, to really figure out what the problem is [and] fix it,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he didn’t believe Tommy John’s surgery — which Buehler was undergoing as a prospect — was a possibility.
Beyond that, however, the manager reiterated that the team had run out of concrete information, including a possible timeline for how long Buehler’s recovery could take.
“I don’t know how long it will take,” Roberts said when asked about Buehler’s availability for next season’s start. “Looking at the calendar, I’m sure it will have some impact [on next season]. But I’m very hesitant to give a timeline.”
Roberts added: “I expect to get more information once they know what the diagnosis was and what they did to repair any part of the elbow. But so far, that’s all we have.”
Going into the season, Buehler was expected to anchor the rotation.
The 28-year-old started his best season as a big leaguer in 2021, when he scored 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.
He was named starter on the opening day of the Dodgers this year for the first time in his career.
He appeared to be taking on a mantle that Clayton Kershaw had donned for the past ten years, expected to be the staff ace for a team with World Series expectations.
In the end, however, nothing came of it.
Buehler was inconsistent in the first two months of the campaign with a 4.02 ERA in 12 starts, especially with his usually dominant fastball.
Then, during a June 12 start against the San Francisco Giants, he said something “grabbed” his elbow while on the mound, forcing him to leave his outing early and be tested the next day.
Then Buehler was diagnosed with a flexor tendon sprain and then also decided to undergo the arthroscopic procedure to remove the bone spur he had had for several years, something not expected to affect his timeline to come back.
For the next two months, the Dodgers continued to hope that Buehler would indeed be back in time for the playoffs.
It was part of their reasoning to keep quiet during the trading deadline.
They still envisioned an opportunity where the right-hander could help in the pursuit of a championship.
“I’m going to do everything I can to come back and contribute as much as I can,” said a seemingly optimistic Buehler last month.
Monday’s news shattered that hope forever.
“It’s definitely a blow,” Roberts said. “We are better with Walker at our ball club. But we just can’t help it. I still believe we have enough guys to get through October to avoid runs. But yeah, I mean, I wanted, we wanted Walker to be a part of this.”