Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler to undergo season-ending surgery

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler to undergo season-ending surgery

Walker Buehler will not return for the Dodgers this season.

The team announced Monday that the pitcher, who has been out since June with an elbow injury, will undergo season-ending surgery on his elbow next week.

The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Buehler suffered what the team called a flexor tendon strain in his right elbow during a start against the San Francisco Giants in June.

Buehler was shut down for six weeks — he also had an unrelated bone spur removed from his elbow during that time — and then began a throwing program late last month.

He had hoped to return in some capacity for the stretch run and postseason, targeting a late-September return that might have given him a chance to at least pitch out of the bullpen in October.

However, those hopes have now been dashed with Monday’s news, dealing the Dodgers’ pitching staff a major blow less than two months before the start of the playoffs.

“We took a chance to try and take time off, start a progression to get him back for this year,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Then as he went through it, we couldn’t get over the hump. We took a shot at it and now we have to go in [for surgery].”

While the implications of Buehler’s injury are clear, Roberts’ explanation Monday of the exact issue was vague.

Walker Buehler delivers against the Washington Nationals on May 24.

(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

He said the right-hander felt some discomfort in his elbow playing catch last week, prompting him to undergo an MRI.

The results of the MRI weren’t clear enough to determine the exact issue, but with Buehler already not progressing as well as the team had hoped, Roberts said ElAttrache — the Dodgers’ head team physician and one of the most prominent orthopedic surgeons in the sport — recommended surgery.

“Whatever Dr. ElAttrache saw, he felt that the best course of action was to go back in, to get surgery, to really figure out what the problem is [and] fix it,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he didn’t believe Tommy John surgery — which Buehler underwent as a prospect — was a possibility.

Outside of that, though, the manager reiterated the team didn’t have any more concrete information, including on a potential timeline for how long Buehler’s recovery could take.

“I don’t know how long term,” Roberts said when asked about Buehler’s availability for the start of next season. “Just looking at the calendar, I’m sure it will have some impact [on next season]. But I’m very hesitant to give a timeline.”

Roberts added: “I expect to get more information once they get in on what the diagnosis was and what they did to repair whatever part of the elbow. But as far as right now, that’s all we have.”

Entering the season, Buehler was expected to anchor the rotation.

The 28-year-old was coming off his best season as a big leaguer in 2021, when he went 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA and finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting.

He was named the Dodgers’ opening day starter this year for the first time in his career.

He seemed to be taking over a mantle Clayton Kershaw had held for the previous decade, expected to be the staff ace for a team with World Series expectations.

In the end, however, none of it came to fruition.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler walks off the field after being relieved in the third inning.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler walks off the field after being relieved in the third inning against the New York Mets on June 4.

(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Buehler was inconsistent during the first two months of the campaign with a 4.02 ERA in 12 starts, struggling in particular with his usually dominant fastball.

Then, during a June 10 start against the San Francisco Giants, he said something in his elbow “grabbed” while he was on the mound, forcing him to leave his outing early and undergo testing the next day.

That’s when Buehler was diagnosed with the flexor tendon strain, and subsequently decided to also undergo the arthroscopic procedure to remove the bone spur he’d had for several years, something that wasn’t expected to impact his timeline for coming back.

In the two months since, the Dodgers had remained hopeful Buehler would indeed be back in time for the playoffs.

It was part of their reasoning for staying quiet during the trade deadline.

They still envisioned a possibility where the right-hander could help their pursuit of a championship.

“I’m gonna do anything I can to get back and contribute as much as I can,” a seemingly optimistic Buehler said last month.

Monday’s news erased those hopes for good.

“It’s certainly a blow,” Roberts said. “We’re better with Walker on our ball club. But there’s just nothing we can do about it. I still believe that we have enough guys to get through October to prevent runs. But yeah, I mean, I wanted, we wanted Walker to be a part of this.”

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