The Los Angeles Dodgers have been without right-hander Walker Buehler since June of last year, as he eventually underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his career. After a long rehab process, Buehler took his next big step in rejoining the Dodgers rotation–making his first rehab start on Sunday with Triple-A Oklahoma City against the Rangers-affiliated Round Rock Express.
The right-hander faced six batters and retired them all, two via strikeout. This is just the first of several rehab starts to come in Triple-A for Buehler, who will now look to ramp up to potentially be able to pitch in the big leagues this season.
While Buehler was rehabbing throughout this season, we have had the pleasure of him making weekly appearances on the Just Baseball Show. This week, Buehler joined again to talk with Aram Leighton and Jack McMullen about how he felt after his first rehab start.
Buehler spoke about how he has put on some weight during his rehab and has even changed up his delivery for the time being, noting that “when they cut you open twice, you got to try something else.”
The Dodgers ace set an ambitious return date to come back from Tommy John with the hopes of competing again at the end of this season. The progress he has made is all tied to the work he has put in to achieve that goal. And yet, there is still no guarantee Buehler is coming in on a white horse to save the Dodgers in the playoffs, at a time when their pitching depth is suddenly getting thin.
Rehab starts are the final concrete step in a long rehab process, where Buehler has to check all necessary boxes to know he is ready to face big league competition again. On the show, he remarked about how his previous experience allows him to have a good understanding of where he is at with how the ball is coming out of his hand and when he is ready to get big league hitters out.
While the stats of his first start were perfect, literally, Buehler still notes the mistakes he made that you might miss if you just look at the box score.
“I had two good innings, but obviously some things I would like to improve. I gave up two hard hit balls, one on a 3-0 count and another on a 0-2 bad fastball.”
Jumping from bullpens to facing live hitters is a huge part of the rehab process from any injury, but particularly off Tommy John. Buehler needs to feel confident in his arm to be able to face the best of competition, and facing six batters in Triple-A was a great start.
“For the most part, you’re trying to get out of there healthy and feeling good about yourself.”
Buehler seems to have accomplished those things and will now set his sights on his next rehab start, where he will continue to advance in this process.
For Dodgers fans, it is a waiting game to see if, and when, Buehler will make his return to the big leagues. For now though, you can watch him continue to make his appearances on the Just Baseball Show weekly, where you can get a glimpse behind the curtain into all of the work it takes to compete at the highest level in Major League Baseball.