Seems like Walker Buehler can take Rancho Cucamonga hotels out of his favorites on Waze.
Now that Hyun-Jin Ryu is destined for the disabled list after leaving Wednesday’s start with only four outs in the pocket next to his strained left groin, the 23-year-old Buehler can remain a regular member of the Dodger starting rotation until he reaches his innings limit for the season.
Prior to this past week, the Dodger rotation had been relatively healthy — if by “relatively,” you understand I mean that only two starting pitchers (Rich Hill and Julio Urías) were on the DL this year, with Hill scheduled to return this week. In addition, the Dodgers’ postseason chances, even with their unsteady start to 2018, weren’t considered to be much in doubt.
Since then, the 8-9 Dodgers lost eight of their next 12 games to fall nine games behind Arizona (since reduced to eight). Corey Seager became an honorary pitcher by earning a season-ending Tommy John surgery, and now Ryu, who in the process of making a special comeback was their most effective starter for the season’s first sixth with a 2.12 ERA (177 ERA+), will probably miss at least the second sixth.
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) May 3, 2018
The Dodgers are now just trying to keep this shift afloat, with October baseball looking a bit more like a bonus rather than an expectation (though the wild card provides some cushion), so there’s no better time for Buehler, who has thrown nine shutout innings in his first 10 as a starter, to get into a routine 90-100 pitches every fifth day in the majors, without worrying about bouncing him around the minors in the hopes of conserving him for the postseason.
Plus, though the Dodgers aren’t a particularly old team, their starting rotation kind of is, with Alex Wood as its only member in his 20s. Clayton Kershaw just turned 30, but he appears to be adjusting to a new phase in his career. A little extra youth could be most welcome.
It’s certainly possible the Dodgers would want Buehler as one of their top four starters in a playoff series, especially if he succeeds in this extended trial, but they’re more likely to have extra candidates then they have now. (Maybe we’ll even be lucky enough for Urías to be one of them.)
If Buehler doesn’t perform well and the Dodgers find he needs more schooling in Triple-A, that’s one thing. Kershaw, after all, had a midseason demotion in his first season as a starter, and with a 1.40 WHIP in his first two starts, Buehler still has something to prove. But at least for now, Buehler can keep his spot in the rotation on his merits.
Instead of being the caddy for the first five starting pitchers, coming up only when someone else is hurt, Buehler should now have a simple, stable role. And heaven knows, the Dodgers could use a little simplicity and stability right now.