Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler will pitch a three-inning rehab outing with triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday and could rejoin the major league roster next week, manager Dave Roberts said.
Buehler was cleared to pitch in a game setting after a successful bullpen session Tuesday, which did not aggravate the microfracture in his rib cage. Buehler has not pitched since June 8, having made three starts after absorbing a line drive in the ribs. The discomfort has faded as he recuperated.
“The last couple days, he’s gotten over the hump,” Roberts said before Wednesday’s game against the Cubs. “He threw with a lot of energy yesterday. So that was really good to see.”
Buehler would throw a bullpen session Saturday or Sunday after he returns from the minors. The team would determine the next step based on Buehler’s readiness and their needs on the big league roster. Roberts indicated it was a “possibility” Buehler could be activated for the series against Pittsburgh that begins July 2.
After placing 80% of their opening day starting rotation on the disabled list earlier this season, the Dodgers are returning to health. Clayton Kershaw will make his second start in his return from a lower back strain Thursday. The rotation features five viable options in Kershaw, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill.
Hill has been the least effective of the group, although he threw six scoreless innings against the Cubs last week in Chicago. The Dodgers could experiment with a six-man rotation to make room for Buehler (4-1, 2.63 ERA), Roberts has said.
Roberts hopes Chris Taylor (sore left hamstring) can return to the starting lineup on Thursday. Taylor has not started a game since tweaking his hamstring at Wrigley Field on June 20. Taylor has been a force off the bench as a pinch-hitter, going three for four in the last week, but he has not been able to run the bases or field his position.