Well, let’s knock one “difficult” roster decision off the list now that the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped a bomb on everyone Monday afternoon. The team announced starting pitcher Walker Buehler will miss the rest of 2022, as he’s expected to undergo season-ending elbow surgery on Aug. 23.
That means LA will be without its best October starting pitcher. Buehler’s been a playoff stalwart for the Dodgers since 2018, going 3-3 with a 2.94 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 101 strikeouts in 15 postseason starts (79.2 innings). Had fatigue not set in last year when he blew by his career high innings limit, those numbers might even be better.
But is this that much of a surprise? Buehler made just 12 starts this year before requiring elbow surgery in June (that one was to remove a bone spur) and there have been few updates on the right-hander since.
In fact, the last one featured president of baseball Andrew Friedman not ruling out Buehler returning in late September as a reliever. Didn’t that get some fans concerned about his eventual comeback?
Now, there won’t be one, and it’s fair to question what the Dodgers were thinking/doing at this year’s trade deadline when they didn’t address the pitching staff, despite unproven pieces occupying important roles and Clayton Kershaw’s ongoing durability issues.
Dodgers’ Walker Buehler to undergo season-ending surgery
Buehler was hardly the only problem with the Dodgers rotation, let alone pitching staff as a whole. Coming into this season, Clayton Kershaw had overcome an elbow issue that knocked him out of the second half of 2021. Once again, his back issues have returned and he’s hit the IL for the second time this season. The lefty hasn’t seen a fully healthy season since 2015.
Then there’s flamethrower Dustin May, who underwent Tommy John surgery last year and is slated to return this week … but how much reliability is there after he hasn’t pitched in over 15 months? Is he going to be a key rotation piece in October?
And whether you thought Andrew Heaney would be impactful or not, while he’s been good in 2022, he’s spent more time on the IL than he has on the field. That leaves LA with Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson and Ryan Pepiot as their only fully healthy starters at the moment.
On top of not acquiring any starters at the deadline, the Dodgers actually sent Mitch White packing in a deal with the Blue Jays. It was evident the front office was banking on Buehler’s October contributions, even though they were hardly guaranteed.
By not even acquiring a potential depth option to help eat innings in the meantime, LA will likely have to heavily rely on prospects such as Pepiot and maybe even Bobby Miller/Gavin Stone when rosters expand in September. Preserving Kershaw and Urías will be paramount, since it’s unclear how Heaney, Gonsolin and Anderson will perform in high-leverage game after high-leverage game.
May’s return is a positive, but it was supposed to be coinciding with Buehler’s a few weeks after. That would’ve made the plan a lot more sensible. Now, the Dodgers are without a life raft for the time being, and it’s looking fairly nerve-wracking if they run into the Mets, Brewers or Braves in the postseason — all of whom boast superior starting pitching, if the Dodgers are to be without this many key players.