Los Angeles Dodgers star right-hander Walker Buehler underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career on Tuesday, officially ending his season and likely keeping him out for 2023 as well.
"There's no sugarcoating it,'' said Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations. "It was a tough blow but we'll get him back. I know he's already itching.''
The 28-year-old Buehler last pitched June 10, when elbow discomfort forced him from the game. With imaging on his elbow unclear, Dr. Neal ElAttrache planned surgery for Tuesday during which he would determine whether Buehler needed a full reconstruction of his ulnar collateral ligament.
"It was kind of the worse-case scenario in our mind,'' Friedman said.
The typical recovery time for the ligament-replacement procedure is 12 to 18 months.
"Tommy John Round 2 let's roll," Buehler captioned a photo posted to Instagram. "See ya when I see ya @dodgers."
Buehler needed Tommy John surgery in 2015, after the Dodgers drafted him with the 24th overall pick in the first round.
In the time since, he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball -- and a vital cog on their 2020 World Series championship team. Over 115 regular-season appearances, Buehler has a career 3.02 ERA, 690 strikeouts and just 162 walks in 638⅓ innings.
Buehler, who got off to a relatively slow start in 2022, allowed eight runs in 6⅓ innings in his first two June outings. He was shut down because of a flexor strain, at which point he also had a bone spur removed from his right elbow. The initial timeline had Buehler recovering in 10 to 12 weeks, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters last week that Buehler experienced uncommon soreness while playing catch, prompting the MRI that led to him being shut down.
"I don't know when the time of return is,'' Roberts said. "I think there's a sense of relief for Walker and a sense of at least we have a course of action."
In addition to having the ulnar collateral ligament replaced, Buehler had his flexor tendon repaired.
"The most important bit of information from today is that it went as well as it possibly could have,'' said Friedman, who texted with Buehler in the morning. "His maturity and kind of how he was internalizing all of this was extremely impressive.
"It's easy to be frustrated, it's easy to be mad, but that wasn't his state of mind at all. It was much more kind of pragmatic and matter of fact, and whatever came out of it, he was going to attack it and do everything he could to get back as soon as possible.''
ESPN's Alden Gonzalez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.