If seeing is believing, then I might have to start believing Kyle Bradish is going to pitch for the Orioles before long.

His rehab start Tuesday in Bowie looked a lot like the Bradish who garnered Cy Young consideration and started the team’s first playoff game a season ago, with a fastball that began at 94-95 mph in the first inning and ended in the 92-93 mph range, and a pair of impressive breaking balls.

Bowie manager Roberto Mercado said after the game that Bradish came away from the outing feeling like he was ready to continue his rehab progression. And beyond the way he commanded his entire arsenal, the strongest indicator of where Bradish is might have come from the obscenities he occasionally shouted.

While the fear was Bradish’s post-pitch four-letter words were related to his elbow, it was instead in frustration after he didn’t execute a pitch. Bradish had high expectations for himself, and that’s usually the territory of healthy pitchers, not injured ones.

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And yet, the fact that he was pitching in a game in mid-April after his offseason work was shut down due to a UCL sprain runs in contrast to much of what we know about injuries to that ligament, which are often repaired via Tommy John surgery and mean a pitcher is out at least a year. Bradish had a platelet-rich plasma injection to accelerate the healing process, and has built himself back up to game action in a few short months.

I’ve talked to multiple pitchers over the years who had similar treatments and rehabbed only to get into game action again and aggravate their elbow injuries. The Orioles did not make Bradish available after the game, so there’s no telling how Bradish overcame that hurdle in reality. All there is to go on at this point was the eye test, and Bradish certainly didn’t look like a pitcher who had a significant injury.

Coincidentally, the pitcher who followed Bradish reminded me of that. I was here at Prince George’s Stadium on April 22, 2022 — the last start right-hander Brandon Young made that year. He was typically in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, but was 87-88 mph on that night. He went on the injured list shortly thereafter, and didn’t return until the middle of last year after elbow surgery.

At the same time, Tyler Wells wasn’t great in his most recent start but his velocities were largely in line with what he’s done this season; he’s now on the injured list with elbow inflammation for what manager Brandon Hyde called precautionary reasons. Similarly, Cleveland ace Shane Bieber was dominant in his first two starts of the season, striking out 20 in 12 innings without allowing a run. His stuff was largely in line with where it has been in the past. He didn’t recover well in between starts, and after further evaluation, ended up needing Tommy John.

There’s simply no way to know with injuries like this. There are success stories with nonsurgical treatments, but far more end with a Tommy John scar. Any kind of injury to the UCL tendon makes the unnatural action of throwing a baseball as hard as one can a bit more precarious. That informs my own personal opinion on elbow injuries, but I have no medical experience to speak of, nor do I know anything beyond the public information on anyone who has ever injured his elbow. It’s more about pattern recognition.

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I do recognize, though, what I saw Tuesday night in Bowie. That was a pretty good version of Bradish, and the Orioles are increasingly looking like a team who is going to need all the starting pitching it can get. A healthy and executing Bradish will make these Orioles meaningfully better. I don’t know how strongly I believe his elbow will allow him to do that just yet.

I just know I believe it’s at least possible now in a way that I hadn’t before first pitch Tuesday.

Jon Meoli is the Baltimore Banner's Orioles columnist and head women's ice hockey coach at Loyola University Maryland.

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