LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his troublesome right elbow on Monday.
Buehler had been debating whether to remove the bone spur for about three years and finally relented because the 10- to 12-week recovery from that procedure is the same length as the recovery from the flexor strain that landed him on the injured list in the first place.
An MRI on Saturday revealed Buehler suffered a Grade 2 strain of one of the flexor muscles in his right forearm, an injury that manifested itself early in his Friday start against the San Francisco Giants. Buehler, 27, won't pick up a baseball for at least six weeks, at which point he will be reevaluated to determine whether he can resume throwing. An additional four to six weeks -- at minimum -- would be necessary to build back up to rejoin the Dodgers' rotation.
If all goes well, and that timetable holds, Buehler would return at some point between Aug. 22 and Sept. 5.
But there is no certainty with these types of ailments. Buehler, who dealt with elbow injuries his senior year of high school and his junior year of college and underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the Dodgers drafted him 24th overall in 2015, knows that well. Asked Tuesday about his confidence in returning this season, Buehler said: "As confident as you can be having them go in and cut you open yesterday."
He added: "I've been through the rehab process before, obviously with Tommy John, and came out the other side really good. So hopefully it'll be the same result this time. But it's a tricky thing. You never know what's going to happen on the other side of these things."
The Dodgers, tied atop the National League West with the San Diego Padres, began their much-hyped 2022 season with concerns about their rotation. Now they have very little margin for error in that department.
Tony Gonsolin, who picked up his NL-leading eighth victory Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels and lowered his ERA to 1.42, and Tyler Anderson, with a 3.07 ERA in 58⅔ innings, have been revelations. Andrew Heaney, who made what was probably his last rehab start on Tuesday, performed above expectations earlier this season. Clayton Kershaw recently returned from the IL, and Julio Urias has been effective. But all five of those pitchers come with varying levels of uncertainty, either because of track record or inexperience or injury or peripherals. And the Dodgers don't have much big league-ready depth around them.
"When you lose your ace, there's gonna have to be some slack picked up," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Buehler was tabbed as the Dodgers' Opening Day starter and entered this season as the anchor of the team's starting rotation, even with Kershaw's Hall of Fame résumé. Buehler has emerged as one of the most electric arms in the sport over the past four years, posting a 2.82 ERA in 564 regular-season innings from 2018 to 2021 and coming up big in some of the Dodgers' most important postseason games during that time.
But he navigated uncharacteristic struggles in recent weeks, posting a 6.67 ERA over his past six starts. Buehler got into bad habits with his mechanics during that stretch but doesn't know if that ultimately led to his injury.
"At the end of the day I couldn't get my body to move the way I needed it to do to perform well, and that's on me," Buehler said. "I don't think there's causation or correlation. It's just part of the game. This isn't my first year here. I've dealt with this before and have been able to bounce out of it, just wasn't able to this year. Some of that tinkering may have led to what happened. But I've been pretty fortunate to not have any arm issues since my Tommy John, what, seven years ago? A lot of times they say your [ulnar collateral] ligament lasts eight years and this is the first time I've had any elbow issues in seven. My ligament is good. Now it's just a matter of getting it healed and getting it right. And hopefully be able to help the team before the end of the year."