What does Walker Buehler, Dave Roberts differing on Dodgers return foreshadow?

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

Before the start of the 2023 season, Los Angeles Dodgers starter Walker Buehler told the media he planned to be back for the stretch run/postseason as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.

The right-hander underwent the procedure in late August of last year, and it typically carries a 15-month recovery period for starting pitchers, if we're being safe in our estimate. Buehler returning in September would put him just barely over the 12-month mark.

Buehler doubled down on that assertion this week when he told reporters he was targeting a Sept. 1 return. And his quotes were pretty aggressive (via the LA Times, subscription required). He mentioned some trainers wanted him to "dial it back but that's just not how I operate." He then added, "I don't think anything has happened that would tell me that's not an achievable goal."

Buehler's underwent Tommy John surgery before, right as he began his professional career after being drafted by LA, so he's no stranger to the process. And the positive attitude undoubtedly aids in a speedy recovery.

But manager Dave Roberts wasn't so sure about Buehler's assessment, claiming, "It's hard to be against this guy, but Sept. 1 is not what I was hearing." So what should Dodgers fans make of all this?

Dodgers' Walker Buehler thinks he can return in Sept. but Dave Roberts isn't so sure

It's probably Roberts' job to tone this down a bit, given how valuable Buehler is to the franchise. The right-hander will be entering a contract year in 2024, too, so it's in the team's best interest to protect his future, especially if there's a plan to sign him to an extension.

Then again, if Buehler is ready to get back on the mound and perhaps offer help as a reliever, that might be a situation that suits all. He can get back out there and start gearing up, and the Dodgers can feel comfortable with a limited workload on his end. It'd help Buehler be more prepared for 2024 as well.

There was another wrinkle that suggested Buehler's optimistic timeline could become a reality, too.

"The weird thing about my surgery was it wasn’t necessarily another tear. I had a piece of bone from an old injury that broke off and went into my ligament. They had to cut that out, but nothing tore again. It was a fully Tommy John reconstruction, but I don’t think it technically was as detrimental to the long-term health of my elbow."

Walker Buehler via the LA Times

Maybe deferring to surgeon Neal ElAttrache to confirm that would make Roberts and Co. feel more comfortable, but nonetheless, Buehler is armed with information and motivation in his quest to help out the 2023 Dodgers.

The man lives for pitching in high-leverage situations, so can you blame him?