Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler, the club’s opening day starter this season and five-time Game 1 starter in previous postseasons, only made 12 starts in 2022. And he might not pitch until 2024, after both Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon repair on August 23.
Buehler left his start on June 10 in San Francisco after just four innings with what at the time was termed right elbow discomfort. MRI results the next day showed a Grade 2 flexor tendon strain for Buehler, who was shut down for six to eight weeks before he can even pick up a baseball.
The right-hander was placed on the 15-day injured list on June 11.
Facing a return timetable of 10-12 weeks with the flexor tendon strain, Buehler on June 13 also had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right elbow, which he said wouldn’t affect his return timeline. Buehler said he was likely going to have the elbow procedure done in the offseason anyway.
With Buehler not even playing catch for six to eight weeks, that put him out until at least mid-August. Factoring in needed rehab starts after that, a September return to the majors seemed like a best-case scenario. But those hopes were dashed on August 15, when the Dodgers announced Buehler would undergo season-ending surgery on his right elbow.
That surgery, performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles on August 23, proved massive. Buehler underwent his second Tommy John surgery and had flexor tendon repair. It’s unlikely he pitches again until 2024.
Buehler also had Tommy John surgery in 2015, after getting drafted in the first round by the Dodgers out of Vanderbilt.
In 12 starts this season, Buehler was 6-3 with a 4.02 ERA and 4.22 xERA both career worsts as a starting pitcher. Among his issues was a diminished fastball, one of the best pitches in the sport from 2019-2021, but this year one of the worst, declining in both velocity and spin rate.
Buehler is a two-time All-Star and received National League Cy Young Award votes in both 2019 and 2021, finishing in fourth place last season with career bests in starts (33), innings pitched (207⅔), ERA (2.47), and wins (16), to go along with 212 strikeouts.