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2022 Dodgers in review: Walker Buehler

A big arm lost early to Tommy John surgery

Division Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Walker Buehler’s season didn’t go the way that anybody expected in 2022. The right-hander had proven to be the ace of the Dodgers’ staff after 2021 and there was no reason to believe he wouldn’t anchor the rotation for a deep postseason run yet again.

Towards the end of April and into May, Buehler was 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA through his first six starts, including his first career shutout over the Diamondbacks April 25. As the calendar flipped to June, Buehler struggled through a pair of starts that saw him give up a combined eight runs in 6 13 innings.

It was discovered soon after that Buehler was dealing with arm issues. The Dodgers placed him on the injured list with the hope that he could get right by the end of the season.

Buehler was sidelined in June with a right flexor strain, and a few days after he was placed on the injured list he also had arthroscopic surgery to clean up bone spurs in his right elbow, something he said he was probably going to have done this offseason anyway.

“It’s something that I’ve dealt with for a long time. Given that rest and rehab was 10-12 weeks, and having the spur removed was 10-12 weeks,” Buehler told reporters. “As a group we just decided to just go ahead and get it done. It was something I was going to do in the offseason, probably. We’ve discussed it the past three years to get those out, but ended every year healthy, and haven’t had the necessity to do it.”

The hope was that Buehler would be ready to pitch again at some point in September, though the Dodgers were being purposely vague around his return date, as to not create false hope.

The Tommy John surgery was performed by Dr. Neil ElAttrache on August 23 and while the team didn’t mention a timeline, it seems safe to say Buehler won’t pitch in a game at the major league level again until 2024.

2022 particulars

Age: 27

Stats: 4.02 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 65.0 IP (12 starts), 58 SO, 17 BB, 0.4 bWAR, 1.0 fWAR

Salary: $7,250,000

Game of the year

Without a doubt, the best game of the year for Buehler was April 25 in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks were flummoxed all night as Buehler finished off a 10-strikeout masterpiece by closing the door on his first career shutout. It was his third career complete game, the only time he struck out double digits in 2022 and one of only two games he made it past six innings.

Roster status

Buehler has four years, 168 days of service time and still has two more years left of salary arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2025. Given the timing of Buehler’s Tommy John surgery, a reasonable timeline for his return to the Dodgers seems to be spring training of 2024.