Last August, Walker Buehler underwent the second Tommy John surgery of his baseball playing career. The Los Angeles Dodgers tried their best to absorb the irreplacable loss, but they fell to the San Diego Padres in the NLDS.
The Dodgers tried to delay the inevitable as Buehler experienced elbow trouble in early June, but an attempt to rehab didn't work and the right-hander had to go under the knife two months later.
Those couple extra months would've been valuable for Buehler's timetable for return in 2023. Every week counts in the recovery from TJ, especially for starting pitchers, who have the longest road back of any player.
But that's not stopping Buehler from putting himself in the best position possible to contribute at some point this season. He's been through this before (he underwent TJ back in 2015, right after he was drafted in the first round by the Dodgers), so it's not an unfamiliar journey.
He's already throwing the ball from 60 feet, and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman didn't rule out the right-hander working his way back to make an impact before the year concludes.
Can Walker Buehler return from injury in 2023 for the Dodgers?
The first and foremost priority for Buehler is his long-term health, especially since 2024 will be a contract year for him. That'll be his first (and possibly only) time to cash in on a lucrative long-term contract, given his age (he'll be heading into his age-29 campaign) and injury history.
Then again, it will be important for Buehler to get some reps before stepping onto the mound cold come 2024. More often than not, those who undergo an invasive surgery like Tommy John need somewhere between a half-season or full season post-injury to get back on track before they're ready to return to their former, dominant selves.
So how realistic might it be for Buehler to, let's say, return down the stretch and contribute in October, which should be somewhere around 13 months after his surgery?
"I'm not sure what the timetable is. I know that he has been working really hard. He's itching to get back tomorrow. He's been through this before, so I think he gets it. We're just going to continue to take each phase of the rehab and be thoughtful about it ... I know in his mind he wants to get back this year and pitch the end of the year and be a weapon for us in October. We'll see what happens."- Andrew Friedman, MLB Network
Here's to an expedited -- not rushed -- recovery for Buehler. The Dodgers will need all the help they can get in 2023 and will surely need him to be his ace-like self come 2024.