SARASOTA, Fla. — The offseason progression for Félix Bautista is behind schedule after the Orioles decided to have their breakout closer take a break from throwing to fully recover from two late-season injuries, but Bautista said Saturday that he expects to be ready for opening day.

Bautista threw his fourth bullpen of the spring Friday in what is a gradual ramp-up. Through team interpreter Brandon Quinones, Bautista said he threw at about 70% of his usual intensity. And while manager Brandon Hyde doesn’t think Bautista will play in a Grapefruit League game until the middle of March, neither he nor Bautista anticipate the right-hander requiring much game time before he’s ready for the regular season.

Bautista dealt with right shoulder fatigue toward the end of the 2022 season, and his campaign ended on the injured list when he suffered a sprained left knee. Both injuries required rehab this winter, which kept Bautista off the mound.

After throwing Friday, though, Bautista felt “rejuvenated.”

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“Thank God, I feel really good,” Bautista said. “I don’t feel like I have any setbacks, I don’t feel any discomfort or pain in my shoulder or knee. So as of right now, I hope I’ll be ready for opening day. I really do.”

Bautista estimated that he’d need four or five innings in spring training games to be ready for opening day, a positive sign after executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said right-hander Dillon Tate would likely miss the first month of the season.

Without Tate — and, potentially, Bautista — the back-end of Baltimore’s bullpen will start the season without one or more key figures from last year.

Tate held a 3.05 ERA in 73 2/3 innings, mainly working high-leverage spots. And Bautista, in his first taste of the major leagues, largely dominated the competition. He recorded 15 saves with a 2.19 ERA. In his 65 2/3 innings, Bautista struck out 88 batters and carried a 0.929 WHIP.

Bautista caught attention around the league with a fastball that touched — and then blew past — 100 mph, and his splitter is considered one of the best in baseball.

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“I think the most important thing obviously is staying healthy,” Bautista said. “That’s the most important thing for me. And after that, trying to help the team win. Try to help the team with whatever I can do to get to where we want to be at the end of the year.”

Bautista will continue progressing after his Friday bullpen session went without a hitch.

“If all good, maybe ramp it up a little bit as we go along,” Hyde said. “Get him some live BPs also. Face hitters, it’s a different intensity. But right now, his first game action if everything goes well is sometime in the middle of March and then we’ll go from there.”

andy.kostka@thebaltimorebanner.com

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville. 

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