Orioles manager Brandon Hyde watched the emotions hit Félix Bautista as he was told the devastating news.

On Friday night, Bautista was one strike away from closing out his 34th save. But he felt discomfort after firing off a 102.3 mph fastball and they all knew, as soon as he waved his finger at the dugout, that something was wrong.

Less than 24 hours later, after a series of tests, they found the cause. Bautista has an ulnar collateral ligament injury. He will go on the injured list, missing at minimum 15 days. The severity and timeline are not yet known, but any time without their All-Star closer is a major blow to the team.

“I love the guy so much,” Hyde said. “It’s hard to watch someone in pain like that.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

It’s a roadblock in what has otherwise been a dream season for Bautista. He finally made it to the major leagues in 2022, 10 years after signing his first professional contract. His success was worth the wait. The 28-year-old righty has recorded 33 saves and pitched to a 1.48 ERA this season as the Orioles closer, earning his first All-Star nomination.

Now, his potentially historic season has been halted. An injury to the UCL in the elbow is often a severe one for pitchers and tends to lead to Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. General manager Mike Elias reiterated that, with this happening so recently, the extent of Bautista’s injury and the likeliest road to recovery remain unclear. Tommy John surgery, if needed, can take over a year to recover from.

That diagnosis, though, won’t come until more tests and specialist visits are done. They need to give the injury a few days to see if, and how, it calms down.

“Anyone can go on Google and find the spectrum of outcomes and possibilities that might entail,” Elias said. “I’m really not informed or confident enough yet to add to that. That’s all I have and know at this point.”

For now, Bautista is still with the team. Hyde held a meeting prior to batting practice Saturday, so the team could hear directly from him what happened and what the plan is.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“He needs our support right now,” Hyde said. “He’s loved by the guys in there so I just wanted them to know what’s going on.”

Yennier Cano, another All-Star reliever, is a candidate to fill in as closer. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

That plan includes calling up DL Hall and placing Bautista on the injured list. Hall, who hasn’t appeared in the majors since April, was dispatched to Sarasota, Florida, in June to regain strength after an offseason back injury. He was sent to Triple-A Norfolk in August, the team happy with his progress, and will now return to the Orioles to pitch out of the bullpen.

The Orioles have not decided who will take over the closer role for Bautista, but they will likely go by committee for the time being. Yennier Cano, who typically takes the eighth, is a candidate to pitch the ninth. So is veteran lefty Danny Coulombe, who got that last out Friday after Bautista was removed. Hall, although less experienced, has the high-powered stuff to excel in that role as well.

Tyler Wells, who was optioned to de-load after taking on a career-high workload as a starter, could also return to the Orioles as a late-inning reliever, although that would require an additional roster move. He’s in Norfolk now, where he’s taken on high-leverage innings for the Tides.

“We all trust each other,” Coulombe said. “We all know that we are going to have to step up. We have to keep going and keep trusting ourselves and keep trusting each other.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Orioles beat writer Andy Kostka contributed to this report.


Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

More From The Banner