Dodgers @ Nationals – September 8, 2023: Dodgers end Buehler’s hopes of returning to the majors in 2023

While the Dodgers are now in Washington D.C. to begin a three-game series against the Nationals this afternoon, that’s not really the big news of the day.

Walker Buehler‘s comeback attempt for 2023 concluded at 10 a.m. this morning as the team sent out the tweet shown above. Buehler last pitched in the majors on June 10, 2022 and underwent Tommy John surgery and a flexor tendon repair on Aug. 23, 2022. After one rehab appearance for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday, where Buehler worked a perfect 2 innings for the Dodgers, the team put the kibosh on a comeback to the majors.

Here’s a bit from Bruce on how Buehler looked in those 2 innings:

Thankfully it does not sound like he came out of the rehab appearance with any issue with the team just prioritizing 2024. That’s rather unfortunate due to the lack of a significant move at the deadline now being coupled with a pair of new Tommy John surgeries and Clayton Kershaw‘s questionable health. Realistically you’d wonder how many innings Buehler would be able to provide in the playoffs, but after this weekend’s arrest of Julio Urias and his impending permanent removal from the franchise, it seemed almost inevitable that Buehler would end up pairing with Emmet Sheehan or Ryan Yarbrough for a postseason game per series.

That leaves Bobby Miller as the most reliable pitcher for the postseason, not that Buehler was going to truly change that, followed by Kershaw and whatever he has left for the postseason, a regressing Lance Lynn, a resurgent Ryan Pepiot and some kind of Sheehan/Yarbrough combo to try to eat up postseason innings. Ideally Gavin Stone and Michael Grove (in whatever his relief role will be) eat up some of the increasingly meaningless regular season innings the team has left. Either way, the Dodgers are lucky they had built up the pitching depth in the organization or this would somehow look even worse.

Still holding a 13-game lead in the National League West and an 8-game lead on the National League’s No. 2 seed with 23 games to play, it would take quite a bit for the Dodgers to end up anywhere but exactly where they are for the playoffs. Otherwise the continued bad pitching news would possibly even put their likely division title in doubt.


Circling back to the game thread part of this, the Dodgers are supposed to open a three-game series with the Nationals today, but:

At least it won’t be Cleveland’s grounds crew taking control of the situation this time.

Image Image
4:00 P.M. Washington D.C.
LF Taylor SS Abrams (L)
1B Freeman (L) DH Meneses
C Smith 1B Smith (L)
DH Martinez C Ruiz (S)
3B Muncy (L) RF Blankenhorn (L)
2B Rosario LF Alu (L)
RF Hernandez 3B Kieboom
CF Outman (L) 2B Garcia (L)
SS Rojas CF Young
P Sheehan (R) P Gore (L)

Facing a left-handed starter in Mackenzie Gore brings Kiké Hernandez and Amed Rosario into the starting lineup when J.D. Martinez returns from the IL to take his place at designated hitter. After hitting a homer against the Blue Jays on July 25, Martinez went 6-for-32 (.188/.257/.281/.538) with 14 strikeouts across 11 games before going on the IL on Aug. 22. In two games for OKC, Martinez went 1-for-8 with a double two strikeouts and a walk.

It’ll be the second time Chris Taylor hits lead off in 2023 after doing so on Aug. 18 against the Marlins in Los Angeles. In 64 PAs since Aug. 10, Taylor has a 1.012 OPS thanks to four doubles and three home runs. Taylor’s also struck out 19 times to 10 walks in that stretch while stealing five bases. Thanks to Chad’s tweet last night for encouraging me to find exactly when that hot stretch began.


Here’s a look at how Gore compares to Emmet Sheehan, who gets his ninth start and 10th appearance in the majors tonight.

IP42 1/3132 1/3

After appearing consistently in the rotation from June 16 to July 29, Sheehan threw 4 innings in relief (earning a save) on Aug. 3 against Oakland before he returned to the minors due to Lynn and Yarbrough’s arrival in Los Angeles. That lasted about a month before he returned for a start back on Saturday, allowing one run on three hits and three walks in 4 innings while striking out six Braves. I mentioned it back on Wednesday, but Sheehan already surpassed his inning total from 2022 (68) and his previous high from 2021 (92 1/3) that was split between Boston College, Rancho Cucamonga, Great Lakes and the ACL Dodgers.

The 23-year-old finished with 53 1/3 in Double-A Tulsa before going right to Los Angeles, where he’s thrown 42 1/3 innings. While back in Triple-A, Sheehan has only thrown 9 2/3 innings with the Dodgers using him just three times, Aug. 10, Aug. 20 and Aug. 26 between his Aug. 3 and Sept. 2 appearances in the majors. It probably doesn’t mean a ton, but Sheehan’s most recent outing included his highest usage of the change-up (28.9%) and his lowest for the fastball (48.7%) in his appearances so far. The change accounted for three strikeouts in 6 PAs, but also finished two of the three walks.

Sheehan gets five lefties and a switch hitter in the lineup tonight, which isn’t too much of a surprise.

vs. RHBvs. LHB
Batters Faced8988

Throwing basically just two pitches to left-handed batters, Sheehan really increased the change-up usage them specifically in that last outing. After sitting at high of 31.8% changes to lefties on Aug. 3, he jumped to 45.0% while the fastball dipped to a low of 52.5% after finishing each appearance with at least 64.6%.


With Martinez back on the active roster, that means Michael Busch is free to return to Oklahoma City. In his 12 games between Aug. 22 and Sept. 7, Busch hit just .111/.167/.333/.500 across 30 PAs. Striking out 11 times, Busch hit two home runs among his three hits and walked twice. Dave Roberts attributed some of Busch’s struggles to not getting regular playing time, which doesn’t really appear to be in the cards going forward either. Busch moved ahead of Miguel Vargas for the call up when Martinez went down, but then had 4 PAs between Sept. 1 and yesterday.

Of course, the Dodgers aren’t actually going to be back to full strength as Mookie Betts left the stadium yesterday on crutches after fouling a ball of his foot.


First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. from Nationals Park on SportsNet LA.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree.