11:58PM: Buehler will be shut down from throwing for 6-8 weeks, Roberts told Jack Harris and other reporters, as the MRI revealed a flexor strain. While Buehler will have to rebuild his arm strength almost from scratch afterwards, Roberts does believe the righty will be able to pitch again in 2022.
4:30PM: After Walker Buehler left yesterday’s game with discomfort in his right elbow, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya and The L.A. Times’ Jack Harris) that Buehler will be placed on the 15-day injured list. The team has officially announced the transaction, listing Buehler’s placement as due to a right forearm strain.
Buehler is currently undergoing an MRI to determine the extent and nature of the injury, but Roberts said that the right-hander will miss “a good bit of time.” Right-hander Michael Grove will be called up to take Buehler’s place on the active roster. Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, and though he has avoided any serious elbow/forearm issues since, it is naturally a concern to see Buehler again sidelined with any sort of related injury. More will be known once the MRI results are revealed, as it isn’t yet clear if Buehler’s season (or beyond) could possibly be in jeopardy.
At the very least, the Dodgers will have a big vacancy to fill in the starting rotation, even if Buehler hasn’t been quite his ace-level self in 2022. Buehler has a 4.02 ERA over 65 innings, with a very solid 6.2% walk rate but a below-average 21.2% strikeout rate and underwhelming Statcast numbers. The biggest problem is Buehler’s four-seam fastball, which was at times a dominant plus pitch in 2018-21, but batters have been teeing off on the four-seamer this year. The velocity has dropped off to an average of 95.2mph, though it isn’t that far below Buehler’s career average velo of 96.1mph on his four-seamer.
The Dodgers could have a rotation replacement for Buehler in relatively short order, as Roberts said that Andrew Heaney is set for another rehab start on Tuesday and could be activated from the IL for the Dodgers’ game with the Guardians on June 19. Los Angeles also has off-days on both Monday and Thursday, so a fifth starter won’t be immediately necessary in the short term.
In the bigger picture, of course, losing Buehler for a significant amount of time will certainly increase the Dodgers’ focus on adding starting pitching at the deadline. While L.A. has gotten its typically strong results from its rotation this year, pitching was already expected to be a target area, to add more depth and quality to the starting five. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman hasn’t been shy about adding major names (including such star pitchers as Max Scherzer or Yu Darvish) to the roster at past trade deadlines, so anything from depth additions to blockbuster deals could be on the table for the Dodgers prior to August 2.
Buehler is sidelined just as Clayton Kershaw returns from his own IL stint, leaving the Dodgers still short of their ideal top of the rotation. Kershaw, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, and Heaney now form the current starting five, with Dustin May (TJ surgery) and Danny Duffy (flexor tendon surgery) expected to return at some point later in the season. Pitchers like Grove, Ryan Pepiot, and Mitch White have also gotten some spot starts this season, and could be called upon again for more rotation work or potentially relief roles depending on how the club opts to deploy any of these hurlers.