Dodgers Pitcher Plays Catch for the First Time Since Tommy John Surgery

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler, who had his second Tommy John surgery last August, threw on flat ground on Wednesday for the first time since the procedure.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler, who finished fourth in the 2021 National League Cy Young Award voting before struggling in 2022 and ultimately blowing out his elbow, hit a major milestone in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Just over six months after his surgery, he played catch for the first time on Wednesday.

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Buehler had Tommy John in late August, the second time he’s undergone that procedure. He also had TJ shortly after Los Angeles drafted him out of Vanderbilt in 2015. The normal recovery time for a pitcher is 12-15 months, although it’s also been anecdotally observed that pitchers for whom it wasn’t their first TJ are often on the longer end of that timeline.

While playing catch is a huge milestone, it can be misleading if you’re not accustomed to the rehab process. After Tommy John, a pitcher’s arm has to be completely reconditioned. The first step is playing catch, but there are countless steps between step one and pitching in a big-league game. Most rehab protocols have a rehabbing pitcher playing catch somewhere between three and six months after the surgery, so Buehler is currently on the longer end of that.

Last we heard, Buehler was still holding out hope of pitching for LA in 2023, but he’d been to be around the 12-month recovery (or not much longer) to have a realistic chance. Throwing for the first time six months after surgery doesn’t bode well for being completely ready in 12-13 months.

Still, while Buehler’s session of catch doesn’t mean anything about his availability for this season, it still feels good to see him in Dodger blue throwing a baseball on some grass.

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