MILWAUKEE — The Dodgers have the best record in the majors. They are aiming for their 10th straight postseason appearance and second World Series title in three years.
But they should try to do without it Walker Buehler, who will have season-ending elbow surgery, the Dodgers announced Monday. The surgery will be performed on August 23 by Dr. Neil ElAtrach in Los Angeles.
“It’s definitely a blow,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Monday. “We’re better with Walker in our ballclub. But there’s nothing we can do about it. I still believe we have enough guys until October to stop the run. But yeah, I mean, we wanted Walker to be a part of it.
Roberts and the Dodgers gave vague answers when asked several times what kind of surgery Buehler would undergo next Tuesday. The Dodgers manager said he didn’t expect it to be Tommy John surgery. Dr. He said ElAttrache could be wrong once he starts the process, but that’s good news for the Dodgers and right-handers early on.
This is not good news given how open this wound is.
If the Dodgers had a clear diagnosis, it would be easier to determine a reasonable timetable for Buehler’s return. But, as of now, there are too many questions and not enough answers. Roberts said the Dodgers will have more information after the surgery.
“I don’t want to get ahead of what it may or may not be,” Roberts said. “I think it’s fair because if we were clear about what it was before going in, you have a timeline. But right now we’re not. I think we all want to have absolute clarity now.
The only clarity the Dodgers have is that Buehler will not be a part of their postseason run. After Buehler suffered a Grade 2 flexor strain on June 10, the goal was always to make a run to stretch their Opening Day starter.
Buehler has made several catches over the past few weeks. During his stride, he stretched 120 feet, but constant discomfort during the Dodgers’ last homestand forced the right-hander to shut things down. That’s when he underwent an MRI, which made it clear his season was over.
“We took an opportunity to try and take our time and start planning to get him back this year,” Roberts said. “Then, when he went through it, we couldn’t get over the hump. We took a shot at it, and now we have to go inside.
As Roberts noted, officially losing Buehler is a significant blow to the Dodgers, who opted not to trade for a starting pitcher at the trade deadline. As part of that thinking, they hoped a pitcher like Buehler would be back in the fold.
Without Buehler, the Dodgers will continue to look to Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin to lead the rotation. Tyler Anderson was a solid selection making his first All-Star team. Dustin May, who will make his first start since Tommy John surgery on Aug. 20 against the Marlins, could play a big role down the stretch.
Then there’s Clayton Kershaw, who is currently on the injured list with a back injury. Kershaw is expected to be healthy at some point in the next few weeks, giving him time to improve before his postseason run.
“I talked to Dustin today and he’s not a reliever. I just want him to come out and pitch well,” Roberts said. “And when Clayton comes back, he’s got to do his job. I don’t see it as pressure. It’s more, We don’t have a guy we believe should be with us.
Buehler has struggled this season when healthy, posting a 4.02 ERA in 12 starts. But few pitchers in the majors have had the level of success Buehler has when the lights come on in October.
Last October, Buehler was their workhorse, hitting twice on short rest, once in the NL Division Series against the Giants and again in the NLCS against the Braves.