LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers are ready to unleash Walker Buehler one more time, with the latest version of the right-hander set to return to the major leagues Friday against the Los Angeles Angels.
One weekend after the Angels won two of three at Anaheim, the teams will head 30 miles up the 5 freeway and do it again on the Dodgers home turf.
Buehler (4-2, 3.44 ERA) last pitched in the major leagues June 28, with the Dodgers electing to use him in a game against the Chicago Cubs instead of having him pitch in a minor league rehab game after returning from a microfracture in his right rib. It did not go well.
Buehler gave up five runs on five hits with a walk in one inning as the Cubs eventually prevailed 11-5. Buehler was sent down to nearby Class A Rancho Cucamonga for some proper seasoning (three innings July 3) and is now ready to assume his role in the Dodgers starting rotation.
If all goes well, it could be the start of a new six-man rotation for the Dodgers, who have started to get healthy in recent weeks.
“Its a time if it ever did make sense, its one of those times,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of a six-man rotation, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Thats something were going to talk through over the (All-Star) break. Its something for us to really consider.”
The Angels would love to be getting healthy in the pitching department. Garrett Richards was the latest to go down as he is lost for the season and will undergo Tommy John surgery in two weeks. He likely would have pitched Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
Rotation vacancies have afforded right-hander Felix Pena (1-0, 3.63) the chance to start Friday. Pena pitched last weekend against the Dodgers and struck out a career-best eight batters. It was his fourth career start in his 42nd career game.
Pena had two outings in the bullpen earlier this season, but after being recalled June 19, he has made four consecutive starts. He has not lasted more than 5 1/3 innings and threw 76 pitches last Friday against the Dodgers when he gave up just two runs on three hits.
He might just have the best chance at run support of the three Angels starters pitching on the weekend. The Angels offense fares much better against a right-hander such as Buehler. They will get lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill on Saturday and Sunday.
The Angels are 8-17 when an opponent started a left-hander. They won a game against a lefty starter Thursday, but the Mariners James Paxton was pitching with a stiff back and lasted five batters.
“Weve looked at everything and historically, we have some guys that are really, really dynamic hitters against left-handed pitching,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They just havent really gotten into a groove for whatever reason.”
While Buehler will be making his first appearance against the Angels, Pena has faced the Dodgers three times, posting a 2.16 ERA In 8 1/3 innings.
The Dodgers are 4-3 in interleague play this season, while the Angels are 5-5.