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Walker Buehler could bolster Dodgers rotation just in time for postseason

The Los Angeles Dodgers bolstered their roster at the trade deadline, but their biggest addition could be coming from within.

Walker Buehler took another major step forward in his recovery from Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, when he faced live hitters for the first time during a simulated game at Chase Field in Arizona.

Buehler underwent a second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in August of last year, and has been attacking the rehab process ever since.

Typically, the recovery time after undergoing Tommy John surgery is between 16-18 months. Buehler set a goal for himself to back on the mound in twelve.

“Hopefully, September 1 is still the goal for me,” said Buehler back in May. “Things are good so far. It’s a long deal.”

The Dodgers’ right-hander realizes that his original goal of being back in the big leagues by September 1st is unlikely, but he feels is getting closer and will be able to contribute something to the team this season.

“I think I’ll face professional hitters by September 1 or around there, but I don’t know if I’ll be back with the team by then,” said Buehler. “But this surgery recovery time is typically 18 months, so when I step on the field again this year I’ll have blown that out of the water. Based on where I’m at right now, I don’t think September 1 is a reality, but I’m still hoping sometime in September.”

Buehler is arguably the Dodgers’ best big-game pitcher. In his postseason career,  Buehler sports a 2.94 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 15 games. He helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series in 2020, allowing just one run on three hits in a Game 3 victory.

“There’s a bunch of check points,” said Buehler of his progress and when he might be ready to take the mound for the Dodgers. “You take little chunks at a time.”

The next chunk for Buehler will be another simulated game on Saturday, August 19, before the Dodgers home game against the Miami Marlins.

In his two previous simulated games, Buehler’s velocity was up to 92-93 MPH, just shy of his average four-seam fastball velocity of 95.2 MPH during his 12 starts last season.

The next step big step for Buehler will be a rehab assignment, which could come as soon as the end of August. Given his veteran status, Buehler could choose where he wants to rehab, either close to Los Angeles in nearby Class A Rancho Cucamonga, or near his Kentucky home at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

HORSE RACING: MAY 06 Kentucky Derby
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler and wife McKenzie walk the red carpet at the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 6, 2023, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If Buehler is able to contribute anything to the 2023 Dodgers, it would be a major boost for a team that is already firing on all cylinders. Los Angeles is currently on a nine-game winning streak, and 13 out of 14 in the month of August. They are running away with the NL West division, and the addition of Buehler could make their pitching staff even more potent just in time for the postseason.

Despite not pitching for most of the season, Buehler has remained a fan-favorite and been supporting the Boys in Blue from afar. After every Dodgers home run this season, Buehler retweets the video with his patented catchphrase, “YEEESH!”

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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