For the Dodgers, it was Walker Buehler’s day on as the 24-year-old ace threw his first bullpen session of spring training on Wednesday.
According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Buehler threw 30 pitches and “didn’t seem to be holding back in velocity.” The final 13 pitches he threw came with Cody Bellinger standing in.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 20, 2019
Manager Dave Roberts said the team was going to “slow play” Buehler’s spring after his large workload last season, which was his second full season after having Tommy John surgery in 2015.
Buehler threw 137.1 regular season innings, 23.2 playoff innings, and 13 minor league innings last season. That’s 174 innings total after throwing just 98 in 2017.
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As a rookie last season, Buehler established himself as one of the best starters in baseball. He ended up finishing 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting behind Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto. During the regular season, he posted a 2.62 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 3.21 xFIP, and 3.3 WAR while striking out 27.9% of batters faced and walking 6.8%. In the postseason, Buehler put up a 3.80 ERA but had seven shutout innings in his World Series start.
Coming into the 2019 season, Buehler wants to continue to improve. On an interview with MLB Network Radio, he laid out his main goals for this season.
“First pitch strike percentage, two-strike batting average, and trying to punch out a guy per inning. Those are kind of my three big benchmarks,” Buehler said. “The individual stuff is great and the simple fact is that I had one good year that I threw 137 regular season innings, and that’s not the end goal. The end goal is to put up 200 innings… That’s what I want to do and be successful for full seasons in the major leagues. So now it’s about repeating it and continuing to improve.”
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) February 6, 2019
The Dodgers know they have a special talent in Walker Buehler so they’ll continue to play it safe with him during spring training.