Dodgers' Walker Buehler takes first steps toward being 2024 rotation difference-maker

Pittsburgh Pirates v Los Angeles Dodgers
Pittsburgh Pirates v Los Angeles Dodgers / Harry How/GettyImages

As the Dodgers continue to add to their superstar-heavy 2024 roster, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow may not be the only starting pitchers who will be crucial to reaching their championship aspirations. Walker Buehler, coming off Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2023 season, will be an important piece, as he looks to return to the ace he has been since his rookie year in 2018.

Though Buehler is expected to start the season on the IL to manage his innings, he will prove to be a vital part of the rotation once he returns, as the Dodgers also deal with injuries to pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, Shohei Ohtani, and Tony Gonsolin.

Over his first few seasons, Buehler has finished top 10 twice in Cy Young voting, posting a 3.02 ERA in 106 starts while solidifying himself as a stud pitcher in the National League. Though he has battled injuries over the past few seasons, his 2021 campaign was stellar, as his 33 starts led baseball. He also posted an absurd 171 ERA+, which accounts for the ballpark factor, with 100 being the league average. Having not pitched since June 10, 2022, the Dodgers hope Buehler could return to his 2021 form.

His first bullpen sessions of the spring provided a window into that possibility, following a long slumber (with an unknown return date).

Dodgers' Walker Buehler takes first steps toward being 2024 rotation difference-maker

The first-round pick out of Vanderbilt was set to return in September this past season, but after one minor league rehab start, the team decided to shut him down for the remainder of the season. This decision may have been best for both Buehler and the Dodgers, as it allowed the right-hander to have a normal offseason and be full go for the upcoming 2024 campaign. The righty’s diverse arsenal contains six pitches that are headlined by a live fastball and nasty breaking stuff proven to devastate hitters in the past.

The Dodgers go into the 2024 season with many question marks about their new-look rotation that includes Glasnow, who has proven to be one of the game’s elite pitchers when healthy. Glasnow has yet to pitch a full season, which makes many fans wonder if he can be relied upon throughout the season and the postseason, where he has struggled in the past. Hard-throwing right-hander Bobby Miller will look to follow up a promising rookie season along with Emmet Sheehan, who will prove to be depth for the Dodgers as others return from injury.

In his walk year, Buehler will be one of the veteran leaders on the staff, as he tries to prove why he deserves a long-term contract and to be paid as one of the top pitchers in the game. As Dodgers fans hope to see their team bring back a championship to Los Angeles, Buehler must be the dominant force baseball fans have seen him be.