Walker Buehler has awesome response to silly question, but Dodgers return unclear

Division Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two
Division Series - San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two / Harry How/GettyImages

The Dodgers already seem a bit fed up with the media swarm they've experienced just days into spring training. LA has always had more eyes on them than most teams, but now, with Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto in the mix, things have gotten that much more intense. Some Japanese reporters apparently showed up to Ohtani's first media scrum this weekend as early as 7 AM, forming a hoard around a solitary microphone and backdrop.

Manager Dave Roberts directed questions about Ohtani to Jason Heyward, who then said that Ohtani was the best person to ask about Ohtani-related questions. When asked if his new teammate's presence was making things harder on the rest of the team in relation to the media attention, Heyward said, "It's harder if you guys make it harder."

Walker Buehler also addressed the heightened attention and said he thought it was good for the team, but he's also had to field some rather inane questions as a result of it. When asked if he would prioritize the team or his own financial interests when he hits free agency at the end of the year, he scoffed, saying, "I think I try to take the ball any time. I don’t think there’s much question about that."

Buehler made his last start for the Dodgers on June 10, 2022, before needing to undergo a second Tommy John and revisions to his first surgery. He didn't pitch for all of 2023, and his timeline for return in 2024 has been unclear, even though some earlier predictions had him coming back in April or May.

Walker Buehler brushes off Kershaw-Scherzer question, but Dodgers return timeline is still up in the air

The Kershaw-Scherzer, angel-devil dichotomy doesn't leave a lot of room for nuance, so it makes sense that Buehler would just brush off the question. The question does still remain, though, of when he'll actually be able to come back and potentially cement his future as a Dodger. Buehler has said that his fastball has reached 92-94 MPH in bullpens during his rehab, but it's hit 95-97 in years past, which raises some questions about the staying power of his velocity after two Tommy Johns. Velocity doesn't have to be everything — his curveball and slider are his third and fourth most used pitches and both have expected batting averages below .200 — but it's one thing if he'll never be able to get back to 95-97, and another if he's just not there yet.

Whenever he does come back, it's guaranteed to light even more of a fire under the Dodgers in their quest for world domination, which, almost impossibly, they seem to have a better shot at now than ever before. He is expected to throw a few innings during spring training games, so hopefully we'll be able to see some real progress there that spells good things for an early-season return.