Los Angeles Dodgers starter Walker Buehler will have season-ending elbow surgery next week

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The Los Angeles Dodgers’ faint hopes of having Walker Buehler in their postseason rotation ended on Monday, when it was announced that their ace pitcher would require season-ending elbow surgery. The Dodgers were vague in their description of Buehler’s injury because an initial MRI did not provide enough clarity, a source with knowledge of the situation said. The Dodgers won’t learn the specifics until Dr. Neal ElAttrache conducts the procedure on Aug. 23.

What they do know, however, is that they will be without their most talented pitcher while in pursuit of a World Series title.

The Dodgers boast the highest winning percentage and the lowest ERA in the major leagues despite navigating an assortment of injuries to their staff, with 11 pitchers currently on their injured list. But Dustin May is expected to make his return from Tommy John surgery on Saturday, and the team is hopeful that Clayton Kershaw, out since early August with discomfort in his lower back, can still make it back in time to get built up for the playoffs. Capturing a first-round bye, awarded to the two teams with the best records in each league under the new format, would certainly help his cause.

Buehler, 28, underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the Dodgers drafted him out of Vanderbilt with the 24th overall pick in 2015. From 2018 to 2021, he established himself as one of the predominant arms in the sport, going 39-13 with a 2.82 ERA and 620 strikeouts in 564 regular-season innings while also coming through in several of the Dodgers’ biggest postseason games.

But Buehler got off to a relatively slow start in 2022, allowed eight runs in 6 1/3 innings in his first two June outings and was shut down because of a flexor strain, at which point he also had a bone spur removed from his right elbow. The initial timeline had Buehler recovering in 10 to 12 weeks, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters in Milwaukee on Monday that Buehler experienced uncommon soreness while playing catch, prompting the MRI that led to him being shut him down for good.

The Dodgers will begin October with Buehler gone, Kershaw shortly removed from a back injury, May in the early stages of his return from major elbow surgery and Tony Gonsolin blowing past his previous career high in innings. Julio Urias and Tyler Anderson, the latter a revelation in his first season in L.A., will probably be relied upon heavily.