Felix Bautista left last night’s 5-4 Orioles win over the Rockies with an apparent injury. The star closer had recorded the first two outs of a save situation, but after throwing the fourth pitch of an at-bat against Michael Toglia, Bautista looked to be somewhat shaken up on the mound. Bautista then departed the game with a team trainer, and Danny Coulombe took over to record the final out.
In a postgame discussion with MLB.com’s Byron Kerr and other reporters, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said “Bautista left the game with some arm discomfort. He is still being checked out. I’m not going to discuss it any further than that. We are going to get a bunch of tests and see how it is.”
At this stage, it is too soon to tell whether or not Bautista’s issue is anything serious, or perhaps just a minor tweak that will only sideline him for a game or two. Still, even the possibility of a Bautista injury is a very notable storyline, as the closer has been such a key part of Baltimore’s rise to the best record in the American League.
Exploding onto the scene with a big rookie season in 2022, Bautista has taken things to an even higher level this year. The 28-year-old has a 1.48 ERA and a whopping 46.4% strikeout rate over 61 innings, converting 33 of 39 save opportunities. While his 11% walk rate is concerning, Bautista has been almost untouchable when he has been able to find the zone, and his four-seamer (averaging 99.6mph) is among the most dominating pitches in the sport.
The nature of Bautista’s injury isn’t known, but this isn’t the first time he has dealt with some manner of arm trouble. His offseason work and entry into Spring Training was hampered by some shoulder problems as well as knee soreness, though Bautista overcame both injuries and entered the season none the worse for wear, given his subsequent success.
Losing Bautista for any amount of time would be a big setback for the Orioles’ chances of winning the AL East (they hold a three-game lead over the Rays), or their chances of making a deep run into October. If Bautista was out of action, setup man Yennier Cano would be the logical candidate to step into the closer role, with Coulombe then becoming the top setup option. Conceivably, Hyde could divide the save opportunities between the right-handed Cano and the left-handed Coulombe based on specific in-game situations.