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Should The Dodgers Consider Moving Walker Buehler To The Bullpen Temporarily?

Walker Buehler was not sharp in his first outing. In that March 31st contest, the Dodgers were lucky to perform the narrow escape in an 8-7 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Now, with Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill healing from various injuries, the Dodgers have a ‘problem’. However, most teams would pay good money to have a surplus of capable starting pitching. Still – with a problem in place – there needs to be a viable solution.

Within this post, we take a look at whether or not it would be wise for the Dodgers to move Buehler to the bullpen for the time being.

Buehler Was Not Given Proper Ramp-Up Time

While Buehler threw a few extended bullpen sessions and simulated games alike, he made just one spring training start. Furthermore, that start went just 2 and 2/3 innings. Indeed, the Dodgers wanted to keep the workload light for Buehler. But did they do enough to prepare him for his sophomore season? Remember, Buehler said he wanted to throw 200 innings this season. With that in mind – did the Dodgers prepare him properly before throwing him into the starting rotation role?

Without question, I believe that Buehler’s short and long-term role is at the top of the starting rotation. However, it’s not completely crazy to think about letting him work out some kinks in the bullpen with some side sessions in between depending on when he’s called upon. Then, the Dodgers could look to move Buehler back into the rotation when another injury happens or when they feel his stuff is completely crisp.

Buehler Moving To The Bullpen Would Eliminate Innings-Limit Concern

It’s no secret that the Dodgers would like to keep Buehler’s innings down in 2019. While no official number has been reported, it would be no surprise if he’s somewhere in between his 2018 total (137.1) and his goal for 2019 (200).

A month or six-week move to the pen would alleviate this issue entirely.

Still, there are two points worth making. First, no matter how well Buehler performs; he still needs to return to the rotation. Second, the argument can definitely be made that a player could face struggles with being yanked in and out of a rotation. For instance, Buehler returned last season from time off to relieve against the Chicago Cubs. He did not fare well in that lone outing.

I’m still willing to bet on the talent of Walker Buehler in any role he’s put in for an extended period. These items work themselves out – and to insert him in the pen could keep the Dodgers from skipping his starts down the stretch during a pennant race.

Buehler Provides the Dodgers with an Electric Weapon Late in Games

Definitely, this is the reason I thought to write the post. The Dodgers would be undefeated right now if not for a shaky pen. I think guys like Joe Kelly and Pedro Baez find their way and are firing on all cylinders come tournament time. I’m intrigued by the idea of Buehler getting the toughest three outs in a game in the 8th or even the 9th when Kenley Jansen needs a breather.

Buehler’s profile and stuff could play up in a set-up or closer role pretty easily. He has the intensity, fire, and make-up of a closer. Tell me he wouldn’t want the ball with the game on the line? While the Dodgers see how the rotation health and performance of others works out, this gives them a chance to utilize Buehler in the best way.

Don’t forget: the Dodgers were kicking around the idea of using Kershaw and Buehler in the same game to a degree. Using Buehler as the relief ace just seems like a more effective practice; at least to this writer.

Weigh In With Your Thoughts!

What do you think of the idea of Walker Buehler in the Dodgers bullpen? Also, is there a reason above that I missed which makes him a strong case for the role temporarily? Do you agree or disagree with my wild idea? I want your thoughts in the comments below, so let me have it!

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/cody-bellinger-bombs-chronicling-dodgers-home-run-69/2019/04/04/” type=”big”] Cody Bellinger’s Grand Slam off MadBum[/button]

Written by Clint Evans

Clint lives in Ohio, and played collegiate baseball. He loves the Dodgers due to his first memories of Chavez Ravine when he was nine years old. The voice of Vin Scully has been a staple in his life since he was a kid. No amount of baseball talk is ever enough, and he wishes the regular season was year round. He has written about baseball online since 2007.

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  1. After one start you’re considering moving him to the bullpen?! Come on Clint! I’ve come to respect your work but you missed it on that train of thought. Have some confidence in him and the FO.
    But I do think keeping Urias in the bullpen w the big club would be the best way to limit his innings and use his talent. I even think he could be a setup guy or even close when needed.

    • Hi Daniel. I appreciate the kind words, the read, and the comment. I have total confidence in Walker. I agree that Urias is the other who makes sense to move to the pen. However, I picture this as if Buehler were to have another rough outing or two and Urias continues to appear strong in the rotation. Then what do we do?

  2. I get the thinking behind it, but I’m more inclined to agree with your second point; shuttling him in and out of the rotation and into the pen seems like it could do more harm than good. Changing his routine to fit the bullpen and possibly seeing action two nights in a row, seems like some pitchers can’t adjust to that and he’s struggled out of the pen before. I’m no authority of course, but as a fan I’d rather see them bump Julio and Strip to the pen when other’s come back, they have a proven track record coming out of the pen. But hey, who knows!

    • Great point Dan. I like Stripling more than most, but he’s almost a victim of showing he can be successful in the pen so he goes there by default.

  3. Not a terrible idea, but I am not a fan of moving starters in and out of pen. I think it messes with their rhythm. It works sometimes and in short stints (Maeda to the pen in 2017 playoffs), but eventually I think it starts having negative effects on starters. Maeda was less effective as a pen piece in 2018.
    Maybe reconsider if he has 2 or 3 more duds, but for now, I wouldn’t rush it. (I also low key wish they wouldn’t send Urias to the pen, but I totally get protecting your young golden arms).

  4. Knee-jerk reaction from Robin Mosqueda. Incredible these Dodgers brain-trust know how to wreck a pitchers’ arm. The shuttling back-and-forth, starter-reliever will ruin Buehler’s arm. I’ll use an analogy, liken to stop-and-go driving. They want to limit his innings, but will Expect him to pitch high-leverage innings.

  5. I knew it was just a matter of time before platooning would reach into the pitching corps. This is getting silly already. Buehler is a starter; I would consider using him as a relief pitcher only in those situations wherein we are in extra innings and no one else is available. It is too eay to ruin a pitcher’s arm, and I would not even expose Ferris to that. I do not like it when pitchers are asked to pinch run or pinch hit as it exposes them to injury; sliding and injuring a leg or hand, or being hit by a pitch. Reduce Buehler’s innings, but keep him in the rotation and allow him to gain confidence!!!! Go Blue!!!

  6. As happened with Jansen last season slow-playing Buehler this spring training has (so far) resulted in less than optimal performance. What’s the lesson here, kiddies? Basically, Walker’s next few starts will be his spring training, so I wouldn’t expect spectacular results. Maybe Roberts and the FO need to be reminded exactly what “spring training” is for. Leave the kid in the rotation, he’ll be fine.

    • James2 We have our rotation! Maeta, Strickland, Hill, Rhu and Uriah’s..
      Like I said there’s no leadership in the bull pen…. Stick Beuler and Kershaw ther!
      Kershaw is not what he was.. Short term stuff…. Beuller needs more work

  7. Buehler should go bullpen, to build up strength, Julio will cover in the meantime. Friedman sign Kimbrel, huge mistake if he’s saving games in October against us. When he should be for us.

  8. It’s a good idea based on a bullpen with a 6+ era. Great for bringing stability.

    Signing Kimbrel would be the correct move after moving all the salaries to the reds and resetting the luxury tax.

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