No. 12 overall top prospect fires two shutout innings
By Joshua Thornton
LOS ANGELES -- The lone bright spot for the Dodgers from their 9-1 loss to the Rockies was that their No. 1 prospect, Walker Buehler, got his first taste of Major League action.
Buehler, the No. 12 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, made his Major League debut on Thursday. After Buehler was called up on Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts said he wanted to ease Buehler into the action and pitch in low-leverage situations. Buehler had that opportunity in the eighth with Dodgers trailing by eight runs.
"The back end of the game, one real highlight was obviously Walker Buehler," Roberts said. "And to see him break in like that, just the presence, the command of all his pitches. It just looked right. It was exciting for us."
The 23-year-old got off to a shaky start, allowing a leadoff hit to Carlos Gonzalez, but the hard-throwing righty settled in to get a double play and a groundout to end the frame. Buehler tossed two scoreless frames on 26 pitches (18 for strikes) and recorded two strikeouts, his first coming against the National League's top hitter, Charlie Blackmon, freezing him with a slider.
Buehler, who had Tommy John surgery in 2015, has ascended quickly to the Majors, starting this season in Class A and now possibly pitching his way on the playoff roster.
"Having repeat experiences, it helps," Buehler said about his rise. "My Triple-A debut was a disaster, so I was trying to avoid that. Every time I've debuted it hasn't gone really well. Luckily the big one I did well."
Buehler's four-seamer was clocked at 100 mph during the eighth and he averaged 98.9 mph on the night, a tick higher than teammate Brandon Morrow, who averages 98 mph, highest on the team. Roberts compared Buehler's stuff to a former teammate of his, Tim Lincecum, a former Cy Young Award Winner.
"He's bigger than Tim," Roberts said. "As far as the body type, the strength, the athleticism, poise on the mound and just pure stuff, very comparable to me."
As for his first strikeout ball, Buehler said the ball will go to his father.
"My dad lived away from me most of my life," Buehler said. "As I've grown older I've become more like him. He's a big memorabilia guy. He'll get that one."
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.