LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers on Wednesday called up top prospect Walker Buehler from Triple-A Oklahoma City, giving them another option in the bullpen down the stretch in September, and possibly into October.
Buehler was the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt, but needed Tommy John surgery before his professional career even started. That wiped out the remainder of 2015 and nearly all of 2016, save for six innings in the final weeks of the minor league season.
In 2017, Buehler posting a 3.35 ERA in 28 games across three minor league levels, including 19 starts, with 125 strikeouts and 31 walks in 88⅔ innings. He was named the Branch Rickey minor league pitcher of the year, awarded annually to the top pitcher in the Dodgers organization.
"He's very mindful of trying not to be too arrogant, but he has a confidence about him," manager Dave Roberts said. "His stuff plays."
In relief with Oklahoma City, Buehler posted a 4.73 ERA with 19 strikeouts and five walks in 13 innings. Three of his seven runs allowed in relief came in his first bullpen appearance, on Aug. 5. Since then, the right-hander posted a 3.00 ERA, with 17 strikeouts and four walks.
"You're attention to detail has to be higher in the bullpen so you're ready to go, 0-0," Buehler said. "I've been a starting pitcher my whole life, where you can settle in, but that doesn't really work in the bullpen.
"That was the biggest mental adjustment for me. I struggled with it in my first few outings."
Buehler is the sixth 2015 first-round draft pick to reach the majors. He will wear No. 64 with the Dodgers.
With a strong showing down the stretch, Buehler could potentially crack the Dodgers' postseason roster, not that that is at the front of his mind at the moment.
"I'm not worried about the playoff roster," Buehler said. "I'm so ecstatic to be here and be with this team. They're the best team in baseball."
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers designated pitcher Fabio Castillo for assignment.