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Dodgers' Walker Buehler gets day off before eventful start

A weekend with your girlfriend in New Orleans? Life rarely gets better than that.

It did for Walker Buehler, the Dodgers' top prospect. Buehler got the call to the major leagues, and he'll make his first major league start Monday against the Miami Marlins.

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Buehler got the word Saturday afternoon from Bill Haselman, the Dodgers' manager at triple-A Oklahoma City. Haselman told Buehler he did not have to stay for the game that night.

"You serious?" Buehler said.

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The answer was yes. So Buehler left the ballpark in New Orleans, home of the Baby Cakes, and took his girlfriend out for a nice dinner. She had just flown into New Orleans. The two flew to Los Angeles on Sunday.

The Dodgers plan for Buehler to start Monday, and perhaps in a doubleheader Saturday, before returning him to the minor leagues so they can manage his innings. He will fill the temporary rotation vacancy created when the Dodgers put Rich Hill on the 10-day disabled list because of a cracked fingernail.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he believed Buehler could deliver six innings and 90 pitches Monday, but the team has not let him throw that many innings or that many pitches in any of his 23 minor league starts.

"I've wanted to stretch out since June of last year," Buehler said. "It is what it is. I get why they do those things. But it's hard when there are scores on the scoreboard, and you want to keep going."

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Buehler, 23, was the Dodgers' first-round draft pick in 2015, out of Vanderbilt University. He underwent elbow ligament-replacement surgery before making his pro debut.

In his first full pro season last year, he climbed from Class A to the major leagues.

The Dodgers gave him a September audition, in the hope he might emerge as a late-inning postseason force, much as Francisco Rodriguez did for the 2002 World Series-champion Angels. However, Buehler posted a 7.71 earned-run average in eight relief appearances, and the Dodgers did not include him on their postseason roster.

"This was more of a surprise, honestly, than September was," he said. "There was a lot of buildup to September."

Buehler dazzled this spring, giving up no runs and one hit in four innings, with seven strikeouts. In three starts at Oklahoma City, he is 1-0 with a 2.08 earned-run average.

The Dodgers have removed relief work from Buehler's plate, so his mind is more at ease on the eve of his first major league start than it was before his major league debut.

"This is almost a little bit more settled feeling for me," he said, "just because I'm going to get the ball for the first pitch."

Jansen cuts loose

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In his first seven appearances this season, Kenley Jansen's signature cut fastball usually was clocked in the 88-92-mph range. His ERA was 8.10.

For the Dodgers, the most comforting aspect of Jansen's scoreless inning Saturday might well have been his fastball velocity, which hit 95 and 96 mph.

"You guys can talk about it, man," Jansen said. "I ain't worried.

"I just keep working on stuff I need to work on. Continue to keep watching videos. Calm down all the noises outside. I'm just looking forward."

He added: "I never stopped believing in myself, even with the outcomes that I had."

Roberts said the All-Star closer might have been fighting a bit of anxiety, even if he never would have admitted it.

"I think it was weighing on him a little bit," Roberts said. "The player, obviously, is not going to share as much as he might feel. But, for him to go out there and throw the way he did and for the ball to come out the way it did, yeah, I had a sense of relief for him.

"You can be confident in your abilities and your history, but unless you actually see it in practice and see the results, it's hard to convince yourself that it's real."

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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