The Orioles placed right-hander Tyler Wells on the 15-day injured list for elbow inflammation, the club announced Tuesday, putting the immediate future of the rotation into question with an open spot for Wednesday’s game.

Wells struggled in his most recent start last Friday, when he allowed four runs on six hits in four innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was his shortest start of the year, having pitched into the sixth in his previous two. Wells’ injured list assignment is retroactive to April 13.

“We’re staying optimistic about it,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We decided for precautionary reasons to put him on the IL with right elbow soreness, but we’re really confident he’s going to be OK and that it’s not going to be too long.”

To fill Wells’ spot on the roster, the Orioles selected the contract of catcher David Bañuelos, who was already in Baltimore as part of the taxi squad. To make room on the 40-man for Bañuelos, the Orioles designated recently claimed infielder Livan Soto for assignment.

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Wells was scheduled to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Minnesota Twins. His injury means Baltimore will likely make another roster move before that game, or else the team will be required to play two games with 12 available pitchers rather than the full complement of 13.

After Tuesday’s win, Hyde said the Orioles were still deliberating who would start Wednesday.

In 2019, Wells underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery while a member of the Twins minor league system. Upon recovering, the Orioles selected him in the Rule 5 Draft pick and he became a reliable piece of the bullpen and rotation at varying points.

Wells was at his best in the first half of 2023, when he held a 3.18 ERA in 18 games, 17 of them starts. But Wells was sent to the minors after a string of rough outings in July and returned late in the season as a reliever. He hadn’t reached the same heights yet in 2024. In three starts, he allowed at least three runs in each.

“After his last start, he just had a little more soreness than normal, it just didn’t quite go away,” Hyde said. “Just felt like the right thing to do from a precautionary standpoint, if he felt anything at all, was to put him on the IL and give him a couple weeks off.”

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Wells hasn’t suffered an elbow injury while in the majors, but he has landed on the injured list for a variety of shoulder, wrist and side injuries.

At Triple-A Norfolk, the most likely option to be promoted is left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, who is already on the 40-man roster. Zimmermann last pitched for the Tides on Thursday, so he would be on full rest Wednesday. Right-hander Albert Suárez last pitched Friday for Norfolk, so he would be another option. Zimmermann and Suárez were both rotation candidates during spring training, and Zimmermann has been an arm for Baltimore in recent seasons.

Alternatively, the Orioles could accelerate the return of left-hander John Means, who is still working through his rehab assignment and hasn’t pitched more than three innings.

Zimmermann has opened the Triple-A season with mixed results. He conceded eight earned runs earlier this month but recovered last week with two runs against him in five innings. Suárez is an interesting option, having spent the last few years pitching abroad. The 34-year-old flashed potential in the spring with a high-powered fastball but he, too, has gotten off to an uneven start.

Means will be in Baltimore before too long. General manager Mike Elias said last week he expects Means to return in May at the latest. But the southpaw has only thrown a maximum of 61 pitches in a start this year.

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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