23-year-old right-hander will pitch out of bullpen
By Joshua Thornton
LOS ANGELES -- With any change, there's always an adjustment involved.
For Walker Buehler, the Dodgers' No.1 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, the right-hander transitioned to being a reliever after spending his entire career as a starter. Buehler, who was called up by the Dodgers on Wednesday, said he struggled in his first few outings pitching out of the bullpen for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
"You don't get to settle in," said Buehler, Los Angeles' first-round Draft pick in 2015. "The 0-0 fastball on the first pitch of the game that's typically a given, it's not. Your attention to detail has to be higher in the bullpen, so when you do get out there, you're ready to go. … That's kind of been the biggest mental adjustment with me."
The 23-year-old had Tommy John surgery in 2015, but he said since he's come back from the injury, his velocity has been around 98 mph. Buehler started his transition in August after he made 19 starts between Class-A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, Double-A Tulsa and Oklahoma City. After moving to the 'pen, Buehler posted a 4.73 ERA with a save, 19 strikeouts and five walks over 13 1/3 innings.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman did a similar experiment with a young pitcher back in 2008 with the Rays. Friedman, then president of baseball operations for Tampa Bay, called up David Price in September, who at the time was the Rays' top prospect.
Price also spent most of his career as a starter, but the Rays decided to use him in a relief role down the stretch, which ended up paying off. Price made multiple postseason appearances for the Rays, including recording the final four outs of the 2008 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox.
The future plans for Buehler are yet to be determined, but the Dodgers will give him opportunities to show his talent through the end of the season.
"I'm not worried about the playoff roster, to be honest with you," Buehler said. "I'm so ecstatic to be here and be a part of this team that's the best team in baseball. I'm not too worried about that, quite honestly."
Morrow dealing with back injury
Brandon Morrow, who hasn't pitched since Saturday, is currently not available out of the Dodgers' bullpen because of a back injury, manager Dave Roberts said. Roberts did not give a timetable for when the hard-throwing righty will be used again, but said he wants to be cautious with Morrow's injury.
Roberts said he could have used Morrow in the 10th inning of Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to the D-backs instead of Pedro Baez, but didn't want to make Morrow's injury worse.
"We're just making sure we're staying away from him," Roberts said. "Could he have pitched yesterday? Possibly. [But] at what cost? I think today is the same, and I think we're going to try and stay away from him."
Baez won't be available Wednesday, and Roberts said he's still confident in the righty, despite his performance Tuesday, when he walked the first two batters he faced in the 10th.
"For Pedro, it's just continuing to go after guys, use the fastball and the [changeup]," Roberts said. "I know he's still confident, and I have confidence in him. ... I know Pedro's searching a little bit, but he'll be fine."
Joshua Thornton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.