Orioles' Bautista has sights set on Opening Day; McCann thinks there's value in his experience - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Orioles’ Bautista has sights set on Opening Day; McCann thinks there’s value in his experience

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan USA TODAY Sports

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SARASOTA—Orioles closer Félix Bautista isn’t ruling out being ready for Opening Day. Bautista, who’s recovering from knee and shoulder injuries, threw his fourth bullpen session of the spring on Friday.

“Thank God I feel really good,” Bautista said through a translator.” I don’t feel like I have any setbacks. I don’t feel any discomfort or pain in my shoulder or knee, so as of right now I feel like I’ll be ready for Opening Day, I really do.”

The Orioles open the season at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox on March 30th.

Bautista estimated that he threw his first bullpen session at about 55 percent and has increased his effort level gradually.

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“During my bullpen yesterday, I was going at about 70 percent, but with [that] 70 percent I felt rejuvenated and [renewed] again.”

Bautista injured his left knee at the end of September and went home to the Dominican Republic, but he has been in Sarasota since the start of the year and has felt improvement in his knee.

“During the offseason, I actually didn’t have a throwing program,” Bautista said. “They [told] me not to have one, rest my arm and not have a throwing program.”

Bautista thinks he can appear in a Grapefruit League game in the middle of the March and that, with four or five innings, he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

“We’ll wait and see with him,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “If he’s going to get enough appearances and see how he reacts to game situations. We’ll make a decision there if we feel like he needs more [than four or five} or he’s ready to break.”

In his rookie season, Bautista was 4-4 with a 2.19 ERA and 15 saves.

“I think the most important thing, obviously, is staying healthy,” Bautista said. “After that is trying to help the team win, trying to help the team with whatever I can do to get to where we want to be at the end of the year.”

Bautista has sacrificed family time for training time, spending little time in the Dominican Republic.

“It was a bit difficult for sure, but at the same time, I understand the situation. They understood the situation,” Bautista said. “At the end of the day, it’s my health, and it’s really important, but whatever time I did get to spend together, we did enjoy our time together. We did have a lot of fun. I really did appreciate our time together.”

McCann wants to help: The Orioles traded for catcher James McCann, who will serve as a backup to Adley Rutschman this season. McCann came from the New York Mets, and he’s under contract through next season.

The Mets will pay $9.5 million of his $12.15 million salary in each of the next two years.

‘The biggest thing I see here is the youth and the talent,” McCann said. “It’s the desire. You see guys getting here [early], get their work in. You can read all the stuff you want to read about how talented guys are, how much potential a team has but to me, it doesn’t mean much until you see how guys go about your business.

“It’s been a lot of fun to see how these guys work, how dedicated they are to their craft.”

McCann was an American League All-Star with the Chicago White Sox in 2019, and now he’ll back up a catcher who’s expected to start more than 100 games.

“There’s a lot of talent,” McCann said about Rutschman. “There’s no denying that. He’s got a very bright future. I’m going to do anything I can to help him. There’s always a learning curve for a young catcher, understanding the league, so anything I can do to help him, I’m going to take pride in that.”

McCann has played six games at first base in his major league career and could also be the designated hitter.

“I’m going to be ready to go any time my name is called,” McCann said. “Control the things that I can control, work the same way I’ve always worked. Nothing’s going to change on that end.”

At 32, McCann is the oldest position player in spring training, and he’s looking forward to mentoring younger players.

“I think my experience and the different pitchers I’ve been able to catch in my career, teammates I’ve had in my career,” McCann said. “I’ll be able to really draw on that and hopefully help a lot of these young guys make big strides and help them in their careers.”

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