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Walker Buehler struggles in second start as Dodgers lose series in San Diego – Orange County Register

SAN DIEGO — The Dodgers had to know that Walker Buehler’s return from a second Tommy John surgery, flexor tendon repair and nearly two years away from major league competition probably wouldn’t go smoothly.

In this regard, it lived up to expectations.

Buehler allowed back-to-back home runs in the first inning and came away with the bases loaded in the fourth inning as the Dodgers lost to the San Diego Padres 4-0 Sunday afternoon at Petco Park.

“I think there’s a delay before I get into some sort of transition deal,” Buehler said of his own expectations. “Both starts obviously have negative things in terms of performance, but encouraging things for me in terms of the background.

“It’ll take me a minute.” I don’t think you can recreate everything that happens with being a starting pitcher in the major leagues and I want to go deep into games and prepare us to win and I didn’t do that today . But I think in this rehab, I kind of have to look at the right things. I threw some good pitches and had some bad counts and some good hitters took some good swings, but I think I’m a little more encouraged today than last time.

Buehler returned to the Dodgers’ rotation last week at home against the Miami Marlins, going four innings and allowing three runs on six hits. His last two rounds in this comeback start were his best and there was optimism about his progress on Sunday.

That optimism took a 1-2 punch in the first inning when Fernando Tatis Jr. crushed a Buehler fastball, sending it 442 feet over the center field fence. The next batter, Jake Cronenworth, did a shorter version of the same thing.

After a walk and a stolen base, Buehler got out of the first and then avoided further damage in the second inning despite an infield single by Jackson Merrill and a double by Luis Arraez.

“In rehab, I think you’re forced to try to feel good all the time and check all these boxes instead of lifting your leg and throwing the ball,” Buehler said. “I think it’s probably the transition, is knowing that my stuff is good enough. It probably won’t be what it was three or four years ago or whatever, but I think my knowledge is pretty good and I just need to relearn the game of chess a little bit, I guess.

Buehler retired the side in order in the third but ran into more trouble in the fourth.

The Padres loaded the bases with an out on a single, a walk and a batter, with Buehler sending Ha-Seong Kim reeling with a fastball in his hand.

It was the end of Buehler’s day. Ryan Yarbrough kept the damage to a minimum, allowing just one point after Buehler left the scene.

“We just can’t lose sight of the fact that he hasn’t pitched in two years,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “When you talk about pitching in games and not in rehab mode, there’s a lot of things that come with that: commanding the baseball, covering the bag, holding runners. I think when you’re in a championship game and you’re trying to compete, to step away, things speed up, even for a guy like Walker.

“So for me, perfecting that mastery of his pitches, getting the first strike, and then tightening up the other parts, I think then you’ll see the performance improve. I think for me, I’m not going to bet a lot on two outings. I think bringing him back here in competition mode is a good thing and I think things are good. I think again it’s just about leveraging more of that.

How long this might take is uncertain. But Roberts said a pitcher with Buehler’s history of success will have ample opportunity to put things right and make it happen.

“I think given what he’s been through, what we hope he can be, what we expect of him, he’ll get everything he needs,” Roberts said. “For me, I don’t know if it’s five or six starts, so it’ll show itself and stabilize. But I believe there will be a time… where he will take a big leap and feel like he’s going back to the routine every five or six days in competition mode and not in rehabilitation mode.

“Like I said, it’s been two years since he played competitively. Anyone will deserve – certainly given their track record – a handful, five, six starts.

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