The Orioles announced a potentially significant blow to their bullpen Tuesday, with left-hander Danny Coulombe headed to the 15-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. Coulombe has been one of Baltimore’s most reliable relievers, often handling high-leverage situations.

Coulombe recently covered two innings Saturday in Baltimore’s victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. Manager Brandon Hyde said that wasn’t the plan, but in a close game and with how well Coulombe was throwing, he stretched the southpaw out. Coulombe holds a 2.42 ERA with an 0.62 WHIP — the latter of which is the second lowest among all qualified relievers in the majors.

Hyde said Coulombe’s elbow felt sore when he threw before Monday’s game.

“He’s going to get further tests done and we’re hoping for the best,” Hyde said Tuesday. “He’s been crucial for our bullpen. He’s been one of the best relievers in the game, really.”

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The Orioles called up right-hander Bryan Baker to fill in for Coulombe, whose placement on the injured list is retroactive to Saturday,

Additionally, Baltimore activated infielder Jorge Mateo from the seven-day concussion injured list and optioned infielder Connor Norby, who made his debut last week against the Toronto Blue Jays. Norby hit a home run for his first major league hit and checked in with a single on his birthday against the Rays during a game in which his family were present at Tropicana Field.

Hyde said he thought Norby fit in and swung the bat well in the majors. “You never know, we might see him back soon,” Hyde said.

Mateo was inadvertently hit in the head by Cedric Mullins’ bat while crouched in the on-deck circle earlier this month, which prompted his placement on the injured list. Before that absence, Mateo held down the everyday second base role. He’s hitting .246 to go along with standout defense.

Baker pitched in 46 games last year for the Orioles but hasn’t appeared in 2024. He’s struggled at Triple-A Norfolk this season with a 6.55 ERA in 22 innings. But Baker hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last five outings.

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“You try to have a next-guy-up mentality and hope that guys like Danny can come back as quick as possible,” Hyde said. “Baker’s someone we’re very, very familiar with. Pitching really well right now in Norfolk, so we’re excited to have him back. He’s going to fit right into the bullpen. When his name’s called, I know he’s going to give everything he’s got.”

Coulombe’s vacancy will be felt heavily, however. Opposing hitters have an average just .172 against Coulombe when they put the ball in play, which is the sixth-best mark in baseball. The Orioles acquired Coulombe at the beginning of the 2023 season from the Minnesota Twins in a for-cash deal, and the wild-card move has paid off massively.

The Orioles have relied on Coulombe in big moments since he arrived. And this season, especially during a stretch in June with few off days, the Orioles need their top relievers available. Without Coulombe as a setup man, right-handers Yennier Cano and Jacob Webb and left-hander Cionel Pérez will be the likeliest late-game options before closer Craig Kimbrel.

“He fills in all different spots for us and hopefully we can right the ship until he’s back,” Hyde said, “but he’s had a heck of year so far.”

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Baltimore has suffered a glut of injuries this season, although the club isn’t alone. Elbow injuries are on the rise for pitchers, and the Orioles already lost starters John Means and Tyler Wells for the season as they undergo elbow surgeries.

Still, the Orioles mostly avoided pitching injuries last year until closer Félix Bautista required Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery late in the season. Baltimore hasn’t had the same fortune this year. In addition to Coulombe, six other pitchers have spent time on the injured list.

“There’s a lot of pitching injuries happening right now around the league, and that scares you, so you’re trying to keep your guys as healthy as possible knowing that things like this are going to happen,” Hyde said. “But you want to stay as healthy as you possibly can.”

Baltimore Banner reporter Paul Mancano contributed to this report.

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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