Dodgers: Should Walker Buehler Be Moved to the Bullpen?
By Hector Ponce
By now most of not all Dodger fans have heard of Walker Buehler. One of the top prospect in the Dodgers ridiculously stacked farm system. Well, the right-handed product of Vanderbilt might be getting a taste of the big leagues soon. If he does, it will be in an unfamiliar role to him.
Many in the organization believe he can be the best starting pitcher of those in the farm system. But the Dodgers may give him a slow play into the majors by starting him in the bullpen, before throwing him into the fire by making him a starting pitcher right off the bat. This could not only help him develop for the Dodgers’ future, but this would help them right now.
For those who may not know, the Dodgers are being extra cautious with the 22-year-old. This has become even more relevant after seeing the even younger Julio Urias go down with a career altering shoulder injury. Despite the fact that they were being careful with Urias he still suffered an injury. With this in fresh in the mind of the Dodgers minds, they may be even more careful with the prized right-hander, Buehler.
Buehler has already had one Tommy-John surgery, so that is yet another reason to watch over him with a magnifying glass. So limiting his innings and pitch-count is what the Dodgers’ brass will attempt to do with young Walker. Putting him in the bullpen would help the Dodgers’ front office accomplish this goal of protecting his golden arm. Which is why he may just very well see himself making his debut for Los Angeles as a bullpen piece rather than the starting role that he is used to.
Even better, putting him in the bullpen could wind up being a win-win situation for the Dodgers. Helping his future, along with the Dodgers current World Series aspirations. Dodger fans know first-hand how important it is to have reliable and electric arms in the bullpen for October. Buehler has electric stuff, and his body of work proves that he is reliable.
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He would fill a similar role to Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart. Which would be coming in for high leverage situations but he would also be able to give you more than one inning of work. He has ridiculous stuff with a fastball that sits mid to high 90’s as a starter. So as a reliever we may just see him touching 100 mph to go with his plus off-speed pitches.
With all this being said, if Buehler can’t adjust to a spot in the bullpen it won’t spell the end for him a Dodger uniform but it would hurt his stock, and it may take him longer to get back to the big leagues than it would if he thrived.
If I were a betting man, I would put my money on Buehler thriving as a bullpen pitcher. Like I mentioned in another piece of mine, Buehler has the same bulldog mentality that Orel Hershiser possessed. Having this demeanor helps relievers because Buehler is not scared of anyone and will attack anybody who is standing 60 feet 6 inches away from him in that batter’s box.
His simple delivery is easy to repeat, which means he will be able to pound strikes which are the job of all pitchers but is even more important for relievers. One thing that all relievers do indeed need to have is a very short memory. Unlike a starter who has 5+ days to think about a bad outing, a reliever could be up there the next night pitching.
Buehler seems like he has that mindset. He looked cool and composed up on the rubber. Never looking flustered no matter how much he is struggling. For example, he could walk the bases loaded and come back unfazed and strike the next three batters out. He has what looks to be all the makings of what could be a nice arm to have in the bullpen.
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Yes he may be a nice bullpen arm but even if he gets called up and takes the bull by the horns his future is not in the bullpen. He is the type of pitcher who could be helped by getting a taste of the big leagues by starting in the bullpen but eventually work his way into the starting rotation. Many players benefit from doing this most notably Hall-of Famer John Smoltz and more recently Alex Wood. Buehler may make his debut out of the bullpen but his future is starting every fifth day.