LOS ANGELES — Walker Buehler rued the timing of his decision to shut down his recovery from elbow surgery, with the Dodgers in the midst of a crisis with their starting pitching.
As optimistic as he was, a plan to rush his return into the 2023 playoff drive just was not reasonable. The decision last week not to pitch again this season left the Dodgers with one less starting option just as Clayton Kershaw was experiencing a velocity decline and Julio Urias was suspended indefinitely by MLB.
“At the end of the day, I wasn’t recovering the way that I would need to to make an impact here and also an impact that’s worth any risk that would (surround) me coming back,” Buehler said from the Dodgers’ dugout before Wednesday’s game against the San Diego Padres.
Buehler insists there is no setback and there is no added injury concern. And he does not deem a plan to move his return to 2024 as a failure, even though he always had Sept. 1, 2023, marked as a target date following his August 2022 Tommy John surgery and flexor tendon repair.
“I checked a lot of the boxes that I wanted to,” Buehler said. “We talked about Sept. 1 and all of that stuff and in a lot of ways, I got to compete and go out and do it pretty quickly. And I’m pretty proud of that.”
Officially, Buehler appeared in just one rehab game, a Sept. 3 start at Oklahoma City when he pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts.
The Dodgers always intended to build up Buehler as a starter again. If there was even a temporary plan to bring him as a one-inning pitcher at the back end of the bullpen for the remainder of this season, Buehler was glad it was never put into motion.
“Have you seen my numbers as a reliever?” said Buehler, who has an 11.32 ERA in nine career relief appearances (10⅓ innings) but hasn’t tried the role since 2018. “I don’t think that’s something that I can really do at the level the guys we have can do, to be honest with you, regardless of my health.”
So the Dodgers have elected to slow down the recovery process for now, with a plan for the offseason set to commence in time. Buehler does plan on coming to Dodger Stadium in January to participate in a throwing program amid his continued rehab.
“I think the idea of a normal offseason will be a little different, right?” Buehler said. “I mean, I’ve had three elbow surgeries and it’s just trying to manage that. But as normal as I can have (an offseason) it’ll be great. My wife and I are having our first kid this offseason. We have a lot going on and I’m excited about all of that.”
One day after making an arresting major league debut, right-hander Kyle Hurt was optioned back to Triple-A Oklahoma City, with right-hander Joe Kelly activated from the injured list.
Hurt retired all six Padres batters he faced Tuesday while finishing off the Dodgers’ victory. He set down Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto and Manny Machado in the eighth inning, then struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth.
Hurt arrived as advertised as the leader in strikeout rate in all of minor league baseball this season thanks to a dynamic fastball/changeup mix.
“After watching it play out, I really know that it does play at this level and it’s awesome to see that,” Hurt said before departing the clubhouse Wednesday. “All that work I put in, for that to happen, it’s pretty cool.”
Kelly is back on the roster since last appearing in a game on Aug. 9. Before taking time off with forearm inflammation, Kelly did not allow a run in four outings after being reacquired by the Dodgers in a trade deadline deal with the Chicago White Sox.
WAIT AND SEE MODE
Bobby Miller and Clayton Kershaw will pitch in the opening two games of the series that begins Friday in Seattle. Sunday’s game is listed as “TBD” even though right-hander Lance Lynn could appear that day on four days’ rest.
Instead, Manager Dave Roberts will keep adding an additional rest day into Lynn’s schedule. Lynn has pitched on at least five days of rest between his last five outings.
After giving up a combined six home runs in consecutive starts, Lynn was much improved against the Padres on Tuesday, giving up two runs, with one home run, over seven innings.
Dodgers (RHP Bobby Miller, 9-3, 3.98 ERA) at Mariners (RHP George Kirby, 10-9, 3.48 ERA), Friday, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM