Dodgers send prospect Walker Buehler to minors but it might not be for long

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler sits with pitching coach Rick Honeycut after throwing five scoreless innings against the Miami Marlins on Monday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

After five scoreless innings in his first big league start Monday, Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler reported to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday as part of a procedural maneuver that lines him up to start again during a doubleheader Saturday in San Francisco.

The Dodgers optioned Buehler to the minors before Tuesday’s game against Miami. Buehler went to the California League, rather than triple-A Oklahoma City, so he could remain nearby if the team uses him this weekend. Taking Buehler’s place on the roster was right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson, who has made five scoreless appearances for Oklahoma City.

Buehler, 23, is considered the best prospect in the Dodgers system. He struggled with his command at times Monday against the Marlins, but recorded five strikeouts and generated plenty of ground balls. The organization hopes he can crack the rotation later in the summer, with team officials keeping a close eye on his usage. Buehler is not expected to exceed more than 150 innings this season, after undergoing elbow ligament reconstruction in 2015.


Manager Dave Roberts would not officially commit to using Buehler on Saturday. But the implication was clear. The Dodgers can activate a 26th man for the doubleheader. Buehler makes the most sense for that role.

“He pitched well,” Roberts said. “To have him in Rancho, to keep him in the same time zone, to keep him local, that gives us that option if we want to use him on Saturday.”

The rest of the rotation is set for the weekend. Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Friday, with Alex Wood starting Saturday’s second game. Kenta Maeda will start Sunday, and Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw will start the first two games next week in Arizona.

On the disabled list because of a cracked fingernail, Hill threw 58 pitches in a four-inning simulated game Tuesday. He indicated he felt no discomfort or command issues caused by the nail, which regenerated soon after cracking it last week. “It was good,” Hill said.

Hudson signed with the Dodgers on April 2. He experienced an unorthodox spring. Pittsburgh traded him to Tampa Bay on Feb. 22. Shortly before opening day, the Rays informed Hudson, who has struggled with his control, that he would not make the team. Tampa Bay cut him and ate what remained of his $5.5-million salary.

The Dodgers appealed to Hudson, who noted the improvements the team has made with other relievers like Joe Blanton, Brandon Morrow and Tony Cingrani. Hudson indicated he was tinkering with mechanical adjustments during his time in Oklahoma City.

“Things are feeling good and the ball’s coming out great,” Hudson said. “I’m just trying to take in all the information I can take in. I’m an open book when it comes to that. I just want to get out there and compete and win and have fun.”

Hudson pitched a scoreless eighth inning Tuesday in his Dodgers debut, but Cingrani and Pedro Baez weren’t as successful, blowing the save and taking the 3-2 loss to Miami.

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