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Walker Buehler won’t pitch for the Dodgers in 2023, aiming for a 2024 return

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

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler will not pitch for them in 2023, putting a stop to his aggressive rehab from Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon repair, with an eye toward returning fully in 2024, the team announced on Friday.

“My goal since last year has been to return to a major league mound this season,” Buehler said in a statement. “After many conversations with my doctor, the Dodgers’ front office, training staff and my family, we concluded that waiting until next season is the right course of action. I am disappointed that I will not be able to help this team go after a title in the 2023 postseason, but I look forward to returning fully healthy in 2024 and bringing another World Series to L.A.”

Buehler was on the comeback trail, and even pitched two scoreless innings last Sunday for Triple-A Oklahoma City, in his first game action in 451 days. The plan was for Buehler to make at least two more minor league rehab starts with Oklahoma City to build up his innings somewhat before possible return to the Dodgers.

Had he returned this season, Buehler would have made it back just 13 months after his second Tommy John surgery from August 2022, which has been viewed as aggressive ever since May when Buehler declared that he planned to start for the Dodgers by September 1 this year. The comeback became more tangible when he actually appeared in a game last weekend, and was scheduled to pitch again for Oklahoma City on Friday.

In the meantime, the Dodgers’ list of available and viable starting pitching candidates for October continues to dwindle. Julio Urías was arrested on a felony domestic violence charge and placed on administrative leave this week, Clayton Kershaw is still dealing with left shoulder issues, Lance Lynn keeps allowing home runs, and now Buehler is unavailable this year, though what he would have been able to provide in the postseason was still very much an unknown.

In the end, prudence prevailed. Buehler will now focus on returning next year, which will be his final year before reaching free agency. The right-hander is eligible for salary arbitration this offseason.