Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler has pitched his way into the club’s rotation for the foreseeable future, manager Dave Roberts told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and other reporters Saturday (Twitter link). Although Buehler is a past Tommy John surgery recipient who hasn’t yet thrown 100 innings in a professional season, his workload isn’t the Dodgers’ primary concern at the moment. “Right now we need to win games,” Roberts said of a potential innings limit for Buehler, who has combined for 29 between the majors and minors in 2018. The 23-year-old Buehler is regarded as one of the game’s elite pitching prospects, and he has lived up to the hype during his first three major league starts this season. Not only has Buehler tossed 16 innings of 1.13 ERA ball with 10.69 K/9 and 3.94 BB/9, but he was on the hill for the first six frames of the Dodgers’ combined no-hitter against the Padres on Saturday. His emergence has been especially timely for an LA team that just lost starter Hyun-Jin Ryu until the second half of the season.
- Buehler and three relievers combined to fan 13 hitters Saturday, thus contributing to the Padres’ league-high strikeout rate (27.3 percent) and second-worst swinging-strike percentage (12.6). Padres manager Andy Green has seen just about enough, as Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune relays. “It’s well-known that we’ve punched out way too much,” Green said. “We’re at a point in time with hitters here where your opportunity will pass you by if you don’t make an adjustment and start putting the ball in play. The opportunity will start going to somebody else. We’ll continue to churn if we can’t get the job done.” Thanks in part to their swing-and-miss ways, the Padres are off to an 11-22 start – their worst since 2012, notes Acee, who suggests they could soon promote high-end middle infield prospect Luis Urias. The 20-year-old Urias, who has slashed .298/.416/.417 in 101 Triple-A plate appearances this season, would perhaps give San Diego’s offense a much-needed jolt.
- Giants closer Mark Melancon threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Saturday and then informed reporters (including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle) that he’s aiming to return from the 60-day disabled list May 25, when he’s first eligible (Twitter link). Melancon hasn’t pitched at all this season, the second of a four-year, $62MM deal, on account of a flexor strain in his right elbow. Nevertheless, the Giants’ bullpen has fared better statistically than it did in 2017, and fill-in closer Hunter Strickland has performed respectably in Melancon’s place.
- Diamondbacks righty Kris Medlen had an ugly outing Friday in his first major league outing since 2016, allowing seven earned runs on nine hits and four walks in a loss to the Astros. The veteran lost his 25-man roster spot Saturday when the D-backs optioned him to Triple-A in favor of righty Braden Shipley, per a team announcement. Fortunately for Arizona, whose rotation will go without Robbie Ray (oblique strain) for several weeks and Taijuan Walker (Tommy John surgery) for the rest of the year, an intriguing reinforcement is making progress. Righty Shelby Miller, who’s on the mend from the TJ surgery he underwent last year, could pitch in an extended spring training game next week, manager Torey Lovullo told Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic and other reporters Saturday. Miller threw live batting practice Friday – and that went “very, very good,” per Lovullo – and is slated for a bullpen session Tuesday.