SARASOTA—On the first day of spring training workouts for pitchers and catchers, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias disclosed that key relievers Dillon Tate and Félix Bautista are recovering from injuries. He said Tate will miss Opening Day, and that Bautista might, as well. He also said that left-hander DL Hall had lower lumbar discomfort.
Elias said that Tate, who was selected to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic but wasn’t on the roster when it was revealed last week, suffered a right flexor forearm strain in a November workout. The Orioles open their 2023 season in Boston on March 30th.
“He’s doing very well but won’t be appearing in Grapefruit [League] action until very late—if at all, and will certainly start the season on the [injured list] and miss most of, if not all of, April,” Elias said on Thursday. “But we expect him back toward the end of April or the early part of May at this point in time, and that’s going well.”
Tate discussed the setback.
“Not really too disappointed about it,” he said. “It’s one of those things where it’s part of the game, and I get better when I get better. I’ll be ready to go when it’s time to go.”
Tate won’t have the opportunity to represent the United State in next month’s tournament.
“I mean it’s every four years,” said Tate, 28. “I can always get ready for the next one and make myself better. I’m not really looking at it that way.”
Bautista, who injured his left knee at the end of last season, also will miss time.
“We’ve had him in rehab mode basically all winter for that knee, and also on a shoulder strengthening program,” Elias said. “That’s going very well. He’s throwing off a mound. He’s throwing bullpens and looking good, but will be a little bit later in getting into real Grapefruit League games than the normal player might be. He could break for Opening Day depending on how much of a ramp-up we’re able to get him.”
Hall had “some lower lumbar discomfort about three weeks ago in his offseason training,” Elias said. “That’s resolving if not resolved, but it’s putting him a little bit behind in terms of a buildup. We’re going to have him on a starter buildup, which takes a little bit longer, so he may be a little bit later in the getting into Grapefruit League games as well.”
Another left-hander, Nick Vespi, said at this month’s Birdland Caravan that he was recovering from January hernia surgery and would be ready for the Fenway Park opener. Elias was more cautious.
“That will put him a little bit behind in getting into Grapefruit League games,” he said. “I think we’ll see him more. It’s TBD whether he’d be an availability for Opening Day, but it’s definitely possible. We’ll have to see how the spring goes.”
Ramón Urías, who was the American League Gold Glove third baseman and was expected to play for Team Mexico in the WBC but wasn’t on its roster, is not hurt, Elias said, and will play more second base during spring training.
“[Manager Brandon Hyde and I] sat down with him yesterday. He knows that the plan is for him to play a little bit more second base than he did last year,” Elias said, “but he’ll be at third base half the time as well and is going to get a ton of playing time.”
Urías said the sprained right knee he suffered in Boston last September was the reason he’s not playing in the WBC. He was looking forward to playing with his brother, Luis, an infielder with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“It was medical insurance that they didn’t want to cover me because of the injury that I had last year,” Urías said. “Everything was fine. They just didn’t want to cover me. It was very disappointing because I was very excited to represent my country and play with my brother in that tournament, but unfortunately it won’t happen.”
If Tate and Bautista, and possibly Hall and Vespi are on the 10-day injured list to begin the season it would create opportunities for other bullpen candidates and could allow other starting candidates to make the team as relievers.
“I think bringing [Mychal] Givens in, especially from the right side, will help mitigate the loss of Tate in April,” Elias said. “It’s concerning that one of our better relievers is not going to be on the Opening Day roster. I know he’s bummed about missing the WBC, but he’s a pitcher and injuries happen. This shouldn’t last too long.”
Givens, who was signed as a free agent in December, Bautista, Tate, Bryan Baker and Cionel Pérez are the key relievers in the bullpen. Bautista became the closer last August.
“At this point … where he is now and how he’s looking and feeling, I think it’s just going to be a matter of how many spring training outings do we think he needs to be declared ready to go [and] close out American League East games in April,” Elias said. “He’s healthy, but it’s put him behind in terms of schedule, how many real spring training games he projects to get at this point, he’s behind a normal schedule.”
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