Four days removed from suffering a flexor tendon strain in his right elbow, Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler told reporters Tuesday he is hopeful of being able to return to the mound this season.
“As confident as you can be,” he said.
Buehler said he will be shut down for six weeks, at which point he’ll be reevaluated. He said the hope is that his timetable for returning to action will be 10-12 weeks – putting him on pace to come back in late August or early September.
Buehler also told reporters he had a bone spur removed from his elbow on Monday in an arthroscopic operation performed by team physician Neal ElAttrache.
The procedure is something Buehler had considered having done in the offseason the last three years. He decided to do it now, he said, because he can not pitch anyway. He said it won’t affect his timeline for returning from the tendon strain.
“Kind of kill two birds with one stone,” he said. “We’ll take six weeks, see where we’re at and then build up.”
Buehler did acknowledge the recovery process can be “a tricky thing,” adding, “You never know what’s going to happen on the other side of these things.”
Manager Dave Roberts also cautioned that a long road lies ahead for the 27-year-old – both physically and mentally.
“No player wants to go through that, and you sort of feel alienated, isolated,” Roberts said. “So we’ll make sure he’s included in things and relevant, but it’s gonna be a tough, lonely road for a while.”
Still, while Buehler was not surprised by the flexor strain diagnosis after undergoing an MRI exam over the weekend – “It kind of is what I thought it was,” he said – he was relieved nonetheless that the injury did not require him to undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career (he previously had the procedure after being drafted in 2015).
“I’ve been pretty fortunate to not have any arm issues since my Tommy John, what, seven years ago,” he said. “A lot of times they say your ligament lasts eight years and this is the first time I’ve had any elbow issues in seven. My ligament is good. ”
“Now,” he added, “it’s just a matter of getting it healed and getting it right. And hopefully be able to help the team before the end of the year. ”
A new mindset:
Roberts on Tuesday further explained the motivation for his pregame comments Sunday, when he said the Dodgers’ mindset and intensity, especially at the plate, needed to change amid their recent 4-9 stretch.
Roberts, who said the compete level in Sunday’s series finale loss to the Giants was better, reiterated on Tuesday that he’d “had conversations with certain players, as far as making sure we’re on the same page as far as our goals, and that’s to win a baseball game every night. “
He added: “It’s something I just felt needed to be brought to light, and it’s a good reminder for all of us at times during a long major league season, so I feel like we’re in a good spot.”
Roberts said he was serving up a reminder he at times needed when he was a player, when he would occasionally catch himself “feeling sorry for myself, looking at my own statistics,” he said. “You sort of lose sight of the big picture, the main goal. “Everyone’s guilty of that at times, and I think it’s my job to have the pulse of that and to remind people, let’s stay the course and continue to focus on what’s important.”
And although third baseman Justin Turner told reporters on Sunday he did not know what the manager’s public comments earlier in the day meant, Roberts said Tuesday he hadn’t needed to clarify anything to his players.
“Honestly, I do not know how the questions were posed to: [Turner], so I do not need to go back and clarify, ”he said. “The focus of winning a baseball game is pretty clear. So sometimes: [things] get lost in translation. So I do not need to rehash it with them. We have the same goals in mind. ”
Pitcher Andrew Heaney made what is expected to be his final rehab start on Sunday, pitching five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts for the club’s double-A affiliate in Tulsa. Heaney, who has been out since April because of a shoulder injury, could be ready to return to the team as soon as Sunday.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.