Dodgers send Walker Buehler to minors after plan backfires

Dodgers rookie starting pitcher Walker Buehler is dealing with a microfractured in his ribcage.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A day after a failed attempt to let Walker Buehler use a bullpen stint as the equivalent of a rehab outing, the Dodgers optioned the rookie to class-A Rancho Cucamonga before Friday’s game. The team did not announce a corresponding move, choosing to play Colorado with a 24-man roster, with the triple-A affiliate stuck in New Orleans.

Buehler will rebuild his pitch count after throwing only 35 on Thursday. He had returned to Los Angeles on a 6:15 a.m. flight from Oklahoma City, where he arrived the day before, scheduled to throw three innings. After determining Josh Fields would need to go on the disabled list, the Dodgers flew Buehler back and stacked him behind Clayton Kershaw for Thursday’s series finale against the Chicago Cubs.

The plan was cobbled together at the last minute, but it looked nice on paper. The ace of the present would hand the ball off to the ace of the future, as Kershaw was slated to only go five innings in his second start back from a lower back strain.


Kershaw did his part. The decision on Buehler backfired. He completed only one inning and gave up five runs, costing his team a lead and delaying his comeback from a microfractured rib. He will transfer his rehab to the team’s closest affiliate, likely traveling back and forth between appearances.

“Yesterday didn’t go as planned. For various reasons,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Going forward, the goal is to get him built up.”

Kershaw will start on regular rest against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Roberts was unwilling to commit to any pitching plans beyond that. The Dodgers announced Buehler’s transfer to the minors about 10 minutes before first pitch, hours after Roberts spoke with the media.

There was little incentive in keeping Buehler on the big-league roster. The team did not want to keep him in the bullpen, and he needed time to build his arm back up. The Dodgers have five healthy starters in their rotation, although Roberts indicated the team needed to monitor how Rich Hill performed Friday.

Caleb Ferguson, the rookie left-hander, will remain in the bullpen as a long reliever. The Dodgers are desperate for stability with their bullpen, which has been riddled with injuries.

“For where we’re at with our ’pen — guys hurt, guys taxed — his length is huge for us,” Roberts said.


Short hops

Max Muncy received a day off as the Dodgers faced Colorado left-hander Tyler Anderson. Roberts expected Muncy to start Saturday, although he revealed Muncy is dealing with “a little hip thing that he’s just managed.”

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