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Walker Buehler thinks he can start for the Dodgers in September

LOS ANGELES ― Whether he’s on the mound or on the injured list, Walker Buehler never appears to lack confidence.

Even Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sounded somewhat skeptical Tuesday when he was told Buehler is targeting a Sept. 1 return from Tommy John surgery. That timeline would have Buehler back on a mound roughly 12 months following the elbow ligament replacement procedure, which team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed in Aug. 2022.

Rehabilitation from a second Tommy John surgery is typically longer than the first, which carries an expected 12- to 18-month timeline.

“The day I had surgery, (ElAttrache) told me it was one of the best surgeries he’s done,” Buehler said. “Maybe that was just him trying to make me feel good, but I’ve really taken it to heart.”

Buehler had his first surgery in Aug. 2015, two months after the Dodgers selected him in the amateur draft out of Vanderbilt. He returned in time to appear in three minor league games before the end of the 2016 season.

This time, the reason for Buehler’s surgery was slightly different.

“I had a piece of bone from an old injury that broke off and went into my ligament,” he said. “They had to cut that out, but nothing tore again. It’s not like I threw and (the ligament) ripped out. It was a full Tommy John, a reconstruction … but I don’t think it was medically as detrimental to the long-term health of my elbow.”

“I feel very comfortable trying to come back in 12 months from my second one.”

The goal of starting games in September seems particularly ambitious considering how little Buehler has thrown since his surgery. He threw for a few minutes off the slope of the bullpen mound at Dodger Stadium to bullpen catcher Hamlet Marte, who was standing. Buehler has yet to throw to a catcher in a crouch, let alone toe the rubber for a “full” bullpen.

Buehler said he’s open to pitching in relief if he runs out of time to start a game by the end of this season. He’s also sensitive to his effectiveness.

“I want to come up at a certain pitch count, to where me being here is not a hindrance,” he said.

While the 2024 season seems like a more realistic target for Buehler to return, he hasn’t had a setback yet.

“Today was a good day and we’ll see how Walker progresses,” Roberts said, “but 9/1 seems pretty aggressive. It’s hard to bet against this guy, but that (date) is not what I was hearing.”

PROVIDING RELIEF

The Dodgers have pitcher Dylan Covey on the taxi squad in case they decide to add a relief pitcher for Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. Six relievers covered the final eight innings of Monday’s 9-8 win over the Twins, which lasted 12 innings.

Roberts did not rule out the possibility that Clayton Kershaw, who started Tuesday, would go on the bereavement list in order to accommodate the roster move. His mother passed away Saturday.

Covey, a Pasadena native, had a 4.22 ERA in seven games (six starts) with Triple-A Oklahoma City, with 18 walks and 28 strikeouts in 32 innings. The 31-year-old right-hander last appeared in a major league game with the Boston Red Sox in 2020. He is 6-29 with a 6.57 ERA over parts of four seasons with the Oakland A’s, Chicago White Sox and Red Sox.

ALSO

Noah Syndergaard played catch one day after he threw four innings Monday against Minnesota, and Roberts expects him to make his next start on schedule despite a cut on his right index finger. … The Dodgers promoted outfield prospects Jonny DeLuca and Andy Pages to Triple-A Oklahoma City. DeLuca led Double-A Tulsa in on-base plus slugging percentage (.970) and his 10 home runs were tied for second in the Texas League. Pages had a .430 on-base percentage and seven steals in 33 games. … In a corresponding move, outfielder Bradley Zimmer was moved to the development list. The veteran was hitting .219 with only seven extra-base hits in 105 at-bats.

UP NEXT

Minnesota Twins (RHP Sonny Gray, 4-0, 1.39 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Dustin May, 4-1, 2.68 ERA), Wednesday, 12:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM

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