As Clayton Kershaw tussled with the Pirates on Tuesday evening, Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler completed the first step on his reconfigured route back to the majors. Pitching for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga about an hour east of Dodger Stadium, Buehler struck out five in three innings against the Inland Empire 66ers.
Buehler threw 41 pitches. He will make at least one more appearance in the minors before the Dodgers consider activating him. Buehler has not started a game since June 8. He was sidelined shortly thereafter because of a microfracture in his ribcage.
The Dodgers attempted to hasten Buehler’s return to the major league roster by using him as a reliever against the Cubs last week. The team intended for Buehler to throw three innings in relief. Instead, he logged only one official inning and made 35 pitches. The decision backfired as the team plotted how to rebuild Buehler’s pitch count.
Before the outing, the Dodgers made a procedural change to Buehler’s status. He was transferred to the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to June 29. He will continue to accrue big league service time while pitching with Rancho Cucamonga, and spend most of his days with the Dodgers. He had initially been optioned to the minors, which would have prevented him from doing his between-start work with the team’s training staff.
If Buehler had remained optioned to the minors, the Dodgers could have picked up an additional year of contractual control through limiting his service time. The team can still option him to the minors later in the season.