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Walker Buehler to begin rehab assignment Sunday with Oklahoma City

MLB: MAY 16 Twins at Dodgers Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler continues to inch closer to a potential return to the majors. The next step will be starting a rehab assignment, likely on Sunday for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Buehler would probably pitch one or two innings Sunday, and would need at least three minor league rehab starts to build up arm strength.

Buehler in his weekly appearance on the Just Baseball Fans podcast on Monday said he’s been throwing to hitters on a five-day schedule at Camelback Ranch in Arizona, and that he threw an abbreviated two simulated innings on August 24. At the time he was next scheduled to throw two innings on Tuesday.

A Sunday start with Oklahoma City would keep Buehler on that five-day plan.

Pitching every fifth, or occasionally sixth day would leave room for maybe six starts for Buehler during the regular season. If he needs three starts three times in the minors, that leaves only three starts in the majors.

It would also mean a return to the majors only 13 months after Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon repair last August.

Roberts did say if Buehler returns to the Dodgers, it would be as a starting pitcher, even if he’s not quite yet fully built up.

“It’s not going to be five (innings) and 75 (pitches)” right away, he said.

Injured relievers roundup

Roberts characterized Joe Kelly as being ahead of Buehler on the return timeline. Kelly has been out since August 13 with right forearm inflammation.

Yency Almonte, out since August 12 with a right knee sprain, hasn’t yet thrown off of a mound.

Daniel Hudson, on the 60-day injured list with a sprained MCL in his right knee, threw a 16-pitch bullpen session, and will likely throw another one within a few days. Whether he returns to pitch this season remains in question.

“I think he’s still a long shot. Now you’re talking about performance, making sure he’s equipped to get major league hitters out,” Roberts said. “I’m still holding out hope.”

Blake Treinen, on the 60-day IL recovering from November shoulder surgery, has pitched in three minor league rehab games, the last two for Oklahoma City. But he felt soreness after his Tuesday outing, in which he allowed three runs while recording only one out. Roberts described Treinen as “day-to-day” on whether to continue his rehab assignment.

Jimmy Nelson started another rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday, but Roberts said it was unlikely the right-hander pitches in the majors this season.