BALTIMORE—Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said it’s still possible that All-Star closer Félix Bautista, who’s on the 15-day injured list with a right ulna collateral ligament, will pitch again this season.
Bautista began playing catch on the Orioles’ nine-game road trip, which ended on Sunday.
“I think the fact that we’re keeping him throwing right now speaks to the fact now that this is not over for 2023,” Elias said before Monday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. “It’s just going to depend on how he feels as we keep this going. Right now, this is our approach. It’s what I would characterize as a conservative approach, meaning we’re not diving into an operative procedure and we’re seeing how this responds.”
Bautista hurt the elbow on August 25th, and the Orioles placed him on the injured list the next day. In his 56 games, Bautista has been dominant with an 8-2 record, a 1.48 earned-run average, 33 saves and, most impressively, striking out nearly half the batters he has faced (110 of 237).
“We see pretty clearly some ligament damage and the question then is how do you deal with that?” Elias said. “We solicited a lot of opinions and formulated a plan. At this point, the calendar affords us an opportunity to take a conservative approach and allow him to throw right now and see where that goes, how that takes us.
“That’s going to be a day-by-day situation, but he is throwing right now. I don’t have any knowledge about where exactly this is leading … other than we can take this conservative approach and allow him to throw.”
Elias said it was fair to label the injury a partial tear and that surgery isn’t a consideration at this time.
“All the doctors that we’ve consulted us, our doctors, outside doctors, don’t see any irresponsible risk or loss of time that would allow him to keep throwing right now and see how it feels and what he’s able to do the rest of the season,” Elias said. “I think if we do get to the offseason we’ll probably look at it through a fresh lens then. It’s something we’re going to have to think about, what the best long-term move is for him.”
Elias said he’ll continue to throw on flat ground, but could move to throwing off a mound.
“It’s dependent on his feelings and reactions to the throwing,” Elias said. “Eventually, if we continue to receive solid results or a lack of interruption or a lack of resistance to stretching him out at some point, we would get him on a mound.
“It doesn’t make sense to do this if it doesn’t seem like there’s any chance of him contributing the rest of the year. I would still characterize this as something we can’t count on. We’re going to take it very carefully. His career and his future, and the team’s future, are first and foremost in that. We’re very confident that everything that we’re doing is within the realm of not introducing any long-term risk to him or to his recovery or his skill level.”
Elias said that it would preferable, but not mandatory, for Bautista to pitch in the regular season, which ends on October 1st as a precursor to the postseason.