The Los Angeles Dodgers are expected to be without SP Walker Buehler for most, if not all of the 2023 season. The Dodgers’ 2022 Opening Day starter is recovering from Tommy John surgery and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds believes his absence significantly closes the gap between LA and the San Diego Padres, per MLB Network on Twitter.

“That’s closed quite a bit. With Walker Buehler being out, that’s a big difference,” Reynolds told Matt Vasgersian on MLB Network’s Hot Stove. “He was really coming on, truly was the ace of that (Dodgers’) staff right now. You look at him and Julio (Urias), those are the two guys… even though Clayton (Kershaw) gets a lot of the shine. Those two youngsters have really come on. So that’s a big loss.”

Walker Buehler had previously emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Injuries have unfortunately impacted Buehler over the past few years, as this is his second time undergoing Tommy John surgery. Los Angeles would love for him to return in time for a playoff run in 2023, but there is no guarantee of that happening.

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Reynolds believe his loss gives the Padres an even better chance of stealing the division away from the Dodgers in 2023. However, Reynolds still believes that the Dodgers are talented.

The NL West is destined to be far more competitive than last year, when the Dodgers won the division by a landslide. Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw will need to continue pitching at a high level amid Buehler’s 2023 absence.