The Dodgers were vague in their description of Buehler's injury because an initial MRI did not provide enough clarity, a source with knowledge of the situation said. The Dodgers won't learn the specifics until Dr. Neal ElAttrache conducts the procedure on Aug. 23.
What they do know, however, is that they will be without their most talented pitcher while in pursuit of a World Series title.
The Dodgers boast the highest winning percentage and the lowest ERA in the major leagues despite navigating an assortment of injuries to their staff, with 11 pitchers currently on their injured list. But Dustin May is expected to make his return from Tommy John surgery on Saturday, and the team is hopeful Clayton Kershaw, out since early August because of discomfort in his lower back, can still make it back in time to get built up for the playoffs. Capturing a first-round bye, awarded to the two teams with the best records in each league under the new format, would certainly help his cause.
Buehler, 28, underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the Dodgers drafted him out of Vanderbilt with the 24th overall pick in 2015. From 2018 to 2021, he established himself as one of the predominant arms in the sport, going 39-13 with a 2.82 ERA and 620 strikeouts in 564 regular-season innings while also coming through in several of the Dodgers' biggest postseason games.
But Buehler got off to a relatively slow start in 2022, allowed eight runs in 6⅓ innings in his first two June outings and 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 in Milwaukee on Monday that Buehler experienced uncommon soreness while playing catch, prompting the MRI that led to him being shut him down for good.
"It's certainly a blow,'' Roberts said. "We're better with Walker on our ballclub, but there's nothing we can do about it. I still believe we have enough guys to prevent runs to get through October, but yeah, we wanted him to be a part of this."
The Dodgers will begin October with Buehler gone, Kershaw shortly removed from a back injury, May in the early stages of his return from major elbow surgery and Tony Gonsolin blowing past his previous career high in innings. Julio Urias and Tyler Anderson, the latter a revelation in his first season in L.A., will probably be relied upon heavily.
The Dodgers beat the Brewers 4-0 on Monday night with Urias on the mound. He finished with six strikeouts while allowing four hits and two walks in five shutout innings, improving to 10-0 with a 1.99 ERA over his past 11 starts.
"We know how tough of a loss it is, especially losing Walker,'' Urias said through an interpreter. "But we have a good rotation. We know what we're capable of doing.''