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LOS ANGELES — As he neared the end of a 20-month-long rehabilitation from a second Tommy John surgery, Walker Buehler encountered one final obstacle he struggled to shake: adrenaline.

Channeling the adrenaline of pitching in a major league game, an important step in pronouncing himself ready to return, proved difficult for someone who had grown so accustomed to performing on baseball’s grandest stages. Buehler’s version of game environments was elusive.

“To be completely frank with you there’s not a whole lot of that for me [in the minor leagues],” he said. “I wish there was. I wish it was easier for me to get going. I wish it didn’t sound so like s—-y to stay that. But I think getting the adrenaline of pitching in the big leagues is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.”

Buehler will finally get that chance Monday, when he makes his long-awaited return to the Dodgers’ rotation in a home start against the lowly Miami Marlins.

The road back was treacherous.

Buehler, who had his first Tommy John surgery shortly after he was drafted in 2015, then again in August of 2022, tried to come back for the stretch run of the 2023 season but essentially ran out of time. He began another rehab assignment near the end of this past March and wound up requiring six starts.

Buehler’s third outing ended prematurely, when a comebacker struck his right middle finger and ended it after just 27 pitches, about 50 short of his goal. His next two starts saw him allow 11 hits and issue six walks in a stretch of 6⅔ innings, his command clearly lacking. His last start, though, saw progress. Buehler, a 29-year-old pending free agent, threw five scoreless innings in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, running his pitch count to 75. It marked the first time he had recorded 15 outs.

“Five innings is a big mark, I think, in terms of rehabbing to start games in the big leagues,” Buehler said before the start of the Dodgers’ homestand Friday. “If you can’t do that, it’s hard to say you’re ready. There’s always things I’m working on; I’ve kind of always been a tinkerer. Health-wise, I feel great now. It’s just kind of getting all the rhythm back.

“And I think — big league, big-game environment will definitely help me in terms of hopefully a little velocity but I think more than anything the tempo and the delivery works better when you’re amped up a little bit. I’m looking forward to that.”

When the world last saw Buehler, he was one of the most electric pitchers in the sport and also one of its best big-game performers. From 2018 to 2021, he went 39-13 with a 2.82 ERA and 620 strikeouts in 564 innings during the regular season. But his signature moments came in October, particularly 6⅔ scoreless innings in a tiebreaker game against the Colorado Rockies in 2018, seven shutouts in Game 3 of the ensuing World Series and, most notably, a stretch in which he allowed one run in 12 innings over the final two rounds of the 2020 playoffs, helping the Dodgers capture a championship.

What he will be now, in the wake of a second repair of his ulnar collateral ligament, is anybody’s guess. There isn’t much precedent for starting pitchers thriving after multiple Tommy John surgeries. The Dodgers will be careful with Buehler and will use what is essentially a six-man rotation to keep him fresh, but they have declined to set a strict innings limit for him this season.

“I think that’s gonna be open-ended or read and react,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said when asked if he can ride Buehler in the rotation for the rest of the season without the need for a break before the playoffs. “Obviously his health is most important going forward. There could be a situation where from Monday onward he makes every start. There could be a time when he might need to take a blow. I don’t know. It’s gonna be contingent on how he’s feeling, for the most part.

“But how we kind of use rest and built-in starters and spot starts and things like that, I think we can manage the workload. But I don’t think anyone can say right now what that number [of innings] is.”

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Projecting the X factors, tactics and key matchups that will swing Rangers-Panthers




Projecting the X factors, tactics and key matchups that will swing Rangers-Panthers

The NHL’s conference finals have arrived, and if you asked around in September, the four teams remaining were some of the most likely answers to the question, “Who will win the Stanley Cup?”

We didn’t get here the way many would have imagined, though. In the East, there can be no debate that the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers are the best teams, and were the best teams over the course of the season.

The West, however, was a little more surprising. The Dallas Stars battled the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets all season for the No. 1 spot in the West, with all three teams having spells at the top. The Edmonton Oilers had times during the season when they were wholly unconvincing as playoff threats, including a dismal start that saw them nine points out of a playoff spot in November, leading to the dismissal of coach Jay Woodcroft.

In our series previews, we look at specific areas: key points of difference in the series, the X factor, which team my model favors and the reasons why, along with a projection on the series result.

The model is a neural network that accounts for player strength, offensive, defensive and special teams performance, goaltending, matchup ratings and rest. As the model ingests data, it improves, with the heaviest weights on recent play. The model allows for players to be added and removed, with their impact on the game results measured.

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M’s Rojas: Yankees’ Schmidt ‘was clearly tipping’




M's Rojas: Yankees' Schmidt 'was clearly tipping'

NEW YORK — With a little nod of his neck as he took his lead off second base, Josh Rojas seemed to signal Mariners teammate Dylan Moore that a cutter was coming from Yankees pitcher Clarke Schmidt.

Moore drove the 93.1 mph pitch 386 feet into the left-field seats for a 2-0 lead, helping Seattle to a 6-3 win over New York on Tuesday night.

“Everybody’s always trying to look for something,” Rojas said Wednesday. “We’re out there trying to find anything we can to gain an advantage.”

MLB Network showed a frame-by-frame comparison of Schmidt in the set position with Moore at the plate in the third inning. Rojas could see none of the ball before a sinker, a little of the ball ahead of a sweeper and a significant portion before a cutter.

Moore had fouled off Schmidt’s first full-count pitch, a sweeper, before the right-hander came back with a cutter.

“You can see in the video he was clearly tipping,” Rojas said.

Schmidt, 28, said after the game the Yankees were aware of the tipping and quickly worked to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

“Obviously tipping is a part of this game and it’s a factor and it’s always in the back of our heads and something that we’re well aware of,” Schmidt said. “They got two runs on it. But I was able to make adjustments after we saw the video and just part of the game. Another factor in it.”

Schmidt said tipping had been an issue with him in the past.

“It’s just something that we’re constantly with all our guys paying attention to and working on,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Mariners manager Scott Servais, a big league catcher from 1991 to 2001, said technology has forced teams to become more alert to tipping.

“You didn’t have all the cameras and all the people working in front offices. It was actually a learned skill,” Servais said. “The days that you weren’t playing, you’re just locked in on that pitcher. Where does he comes set? When does his hand go into his glove? Where’s his eyes? Does he bite his lip when he throws his slider? There’s all kinds of stuff that happens, and in our day, you would just sit and stare at the guy until you try to figure it out for yourself.”

Asked who was the best at picking up tips, Servais brought up his own experience.

“Veteran players that didn’t play much — like myself — knew what to look for,” he said. “I always thought catchers had a good sense for it because they all knew that pitchers all did something a little bit different.”

Rojas said figuring out pitch tips “is a pretty common thing.”

“Even if you have something, it’s still pretty hard to get a hit,” he said.

Major League Baseball’s approval in 2022 of the PitchCom device for communication between pitchers and catchers has largely eliminated catchers signaling pitchers — and the ability of runners at second to pick up those signs. That causes runners to focus on the pitchers.

“Now it’s strictly a game of trying to find little things like that that will give you a tell,” Rojas said.

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Padres’ Bogaerts broke shoulder diving for ball




Padres' Bogaerts broke shoulder diving for ball

CINCINNATI — San Diego Padres All-Star second baseman Xander Bogaerts broke his left shoulder attempting a diving pickup and was placed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday.

“I’m not a big timetable guy,” Padres manager Mike Shildt said. “Obviously he’ll be on the sidelines for a period of time. It’s really impossible to say how long. We’re still gathering information.”

Bogaerts injured his shoulder while diving for a ground ball in the first game of a doubleheader Monday against the Atlanta Braves. Bogaerts was escorted off the field after being evaluated by training staff.

Initial imaging of Bogaerts’ shoulder came back negative, but the fracture was revealed when further tests were done on Wednesday.

“Not as good (of news) as we clearly would have hoped, especially after the initial imaging,” Shildt said.

The Padres said Bogaerts, 31, did not suffer a labrum tear and does not require surgery at this time. The bone needs time to heal, but Bogaerts said he hopes to return to the lineup by late summer.(

Bogaerts, who was placed on the IL retroactive to May 21, is hitting .219 with four homers and 14 RBIs.

In related roster moves, the Padres selected the contract of outfielder David Peralta and transferred right-handed pitcher Luis Patiño to the 60-day IL.

Luis Arraez started at second base for the second straight game on Wednesday. Shildt said he will get creative in terms of replacing Bogaerts moving forward.

“The good news is, we have options between three or four different guys,” Shildt said. “We’re still in the process of figuring things out.”

The Associated Press and Field Level Media contributed to this report.

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