The team announced Monday that the pitcher, who has been out since June with an elbow injury, will have season-ending elbow surgery next week.
The procedure will be carried out by Dr Neal El Attrache.
Buehler suffered what the team called a flexor tendon strain in his right elbow during a start. against the San Francisco Giants in June.
Buehler sat out for six weeks (he also had an unrelated bone spur removed from his elbow during that time) and then began a throwing program late last month.
He was hopeful of somehow returning for the stretch run and the postseason, targeting a late-September return that might have given him a chance to at least pitch out of the bullpen in October.
However, those hopes have now been dashed with Monday’s news, which dealt a huge blow to the Dodgers’ pitching staff with less than two months to go before the playoffs begin.
“We took the opportunity to try to take some time off, start a progression to get him back this year.” manager dave roberts said. “Then when she went through it, we couldn’t get over the pothole. We gave it a chance and now we have to go in. [for surgery].”
While the implications of Buehler’s injury are clear, Roberts’ explanation Monday of the exact problem was vague.
He said the right-hander felt some discomfort in his elbow playing catch last week, prompting him to have an MRI.
The MRI results weren’t clear enough to pinpoint the exact problem, but since Buehler was no longer progressing as well as the team had hoped, Roberts, the Dodgers’ primary team physician and one of the team’s leading orthopedic surgeons in sports — recommended surgery.
“Regardless of what Dr. ElAttrache saw, he felt the best course of action was to go back, have surgery, to really figure out what the problem is. [and] fix it,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he didn’t think Tommy John surgery, which Buehler underwent as a prospect, was a possibility.
Other than that, however, the manager reiterated that the team had no further concrete information, including a possible timeline for how long Buehler’s recovery might take.
“I don’t know how long,” Roberts said when asked about Buehler’s availability for the start of next season. “Just looking at the schedule, I’m sure he will have some impact. [on next season]. But I am very hesitant to give a timeline.”
Roberts added: “I hope to get more information once they know what the diagnosis was and what they did to repair any part of the elbow. But so far, that’s all we have.”
Going into the season, Buehler was expected to anchor the rotation.
The 28-year-old was leaving his best season as a major league in 2021when he went 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA and finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting.
He was named the Dodgers’ opening day starter this year for the first time in his career.
He seemed to be taking a cloak Clayton Kershaw had held for the previous decade, he was expected to be the ace of a team with World Series expectations.
In the end, however, none of that came to fruition.
Buehler was inconsistent during the first two months of the season posting a 4.02 ERA in 12 starts, struggling in particular with his generally dominant fastball.
Then, during a June 12 start against the San Francisco Giants, he said something in his elbow “grabbed” him while on the mound, forcing him to abandon his start early and undergo tests the next day.
That’s when Buehler was diagnosed with the flexor tendon strain and subsequently decided to also undergo the arthroscopic procedure to remove the bone spur that he had had for several years, something that was not expected to affect his timeline to return.
In the two months since then, the Dodgers had hoped Buehler would return in time for the playoffs.
It was part of his reasoning for staying quiet during the trade deadline.
They still envisioned a possibility where the right-hander could help them in their quest for a championship.
“I’m going to do everything I can to come back and contribute as much as I can,” Buehler said on an apparently optimistic note last month.
Monday’s news dashed those hopes forever.
“It certainly is a hit,” Roberts said. “We are better off with Walker in our baseball club. But there is nothing we can do about it. I still think we have enough guys to get through October and avoid races. But yeah, I mean, I wanted, we wanted Walker to be a part of this.”