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All-Star pitcher Walker Buehler won't return to Dodgers this season

Walker Buehler won't pitch in the big leagues in 2023. (Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Walker Buehler won't pitch in the big leagues in 2023. (Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Friday that Walker Buehler won't return this season, a blow to a team that initially expected the two-time All-Star pitcher to return in time for the playoffs.

Walker hasn't pitched since the 2022 season after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in August of that year.

"My goal since last year has been to return to a Major League mound this season," Beuhler said, via a team statement. "After many conversations with my doctor, the Dodgers' front office, training staff and my family, we concluded that waiting until next season is the right course of action."

Buehler initially set a goal of returning to the Dodgers' rotation Sept. 1. That was shortly after his surgery. He missed that deadline but began a rehab assignment last week with Triple-A Oklahoma City. He told reporters after his start that he hit 96 mph on his fastball and was working to improve his curveball velocity. He made no mention of any setbacks.

“I think the top-end velocity was fine," Buehler said of his rehab assignment, per DodgerBlue.com. "I hit 96, which was fine. For me, I would like to throw a little harder. But the breaking balls are all kind of slow right now, so I think that’s probably the next thing."

Something since then prompted Buehler and the Dodgers to pump the brakes on his comeback. The Dodgers didn't initially expand on the decision beyond the statement announcing that he won't return.

Buehler, 29, made his second All-Star team in 2021, the last time he played a full MLB season. He led baseball with 33 starts that season while posting a 2.47 ERA and 0.968 WHIP with 212 strikeouts and 52 walks in 207 2/3 innings. He made 12 starts last season before undergoing surgery.

Another setback for the Dodgers

The news is another setback for a Dodgers rotation that saw Julio Urías placed on administrative leave this week following a felony domestic violence arrest. Dustin May is out for the season after undergoing flexor tendon surgery in July. Tony Gonsolin is also out for the season after having Tommy John surgery last week.

In addition, All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts left Thursday's game on crutches after fouling a ball off his foot. X-rays were reportedly negative, and his prognosis is so far unclear.

The Dodgers have a 13-game lead in the National League West, at 85-54, with 23 games remaining. They have an eight-game lead for the No. 2 seed in the NL and a first-round playoff bye. But the state of their pitching rotation will be a topic of concern once the postseason starts.