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‘Slow-play’ approach to Walker Buehler’s spring motivated by more than caution

GLENDALE, Ariz. — In Walker Buehler’s own words – nobody freak out.
But with two weeks to go until Opening Day, the Dodgers finally admitted that their “slow-play” approach to Buehler’s spring work was motivated by more than just caution with a 24-year-old whose innings spiked last season.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Wednesday that Buehler “just wasn’t feeling right” at the start of camp – the same phrase he used earlier this spring when Clayton Kershaw’s throwing program was put on hold for a week. Kershaw received treatment and anti-inflammatory medication for his pitching shoulder before resuming his throwing program recently.
“It was just kind of hangover stuff from last year,” Buehler said when asked to explain what “not feeling right” meant for him. “You don’t really want to ramp things up until you’re feeling right. Just kind of normal stuff, nothing super specific.
“But if you’re not 100 percent it’s kind of tough to try and ramp up and get going. So we kind of reset ourselves and it kind of worked out in my favor.”
Buehler threw to hitters in a live batting practice session for the first time Wednesday, throwing 33 pitches in two simulated innings to Corey Seager, Paulo Orlando and Ezequiel Carrera. Buehler expects to pitch in a Cactus League game in three or four days, meaning his spring debut would come about 10 days before the season starts.
“I think the timing is a little difficult but I fully plan to be able to pitch and be a normal starting pitcher opening week. That’s our goal and that’s my goal,” Buehler said. “If it doesn’t happen, if it’s four innings, that’s fine. If it’s five, if it’s six – I think it’s all a matter of how we respond. That’ll be it.”
Roberts acknowledged Monday that both Kershaw and Buehler could open the season in the rotation even if they are only built up enough to pitch four or five innings in their first starts. Right-hander Ross Stripling and left-handers Julio Urias and Caleb Ferguson are all building up to be either starters or, potentially, multi-inning relievers who could follow Kershaw or Buehler in a “piggy-back” situation.
“If all goes well, will he be ready for the season to start? Yes. But that’s relative to how much he’s built up,” Roberts said of Buehler specifically.
“Are we being more conservative right now? Probably – with what we’re doing and how we handle it? Yeah, probably.”
Buehler said he felt the “hangover stuff” off and on from the time he started his throwing program at home in Kentucky in the weeks before spring training.
“It’s just kind of from the beginning of the throwing progam, not feeling 100 percent with my whole body,” he said.
“Just my arm didn’t feel like it was moving the way I wanted it to. It’s not a pain thing really, more of something doesn’t move perfectly and the way I kind of work I need everything to work correctly. … It’s something that kind of comes and goes. Some days you feel great and some days you don’t. That’s baseball. But I wasn’t feeling good often enough. Nothing scary, nothing alarming.”
SEAGER DEFENSE
Seager is scheduled to play three innings at shortstop in a minor-league game Thursday. This represents the first time Seager has taken the field on defense in a game since last May – and likely the final step in his recovery from hip and elbow surgeries before he is cleared to play in Cactus League games.
ALSO
Kershaw is scheduled to throw another bullpen session during Thursday’s workout. It will be his second time throwing off a mound since resuming his throwing program. …
Outfielder Alex Verdugo played in a minor-league game Wednesday, getting four at-bats.

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