Orioles' Bautista getting ready for Opening Day 2025 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Orioles’ Bautista getting ready for Opening Day 2025

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

SARASOTA—On the fourth day of spring training, Orioles closer Félix Bautista ambled over to his corner locker and talked about his right elbow. Bautista injured the elbow on August 25th, had Tommy John surgery in October and recently had scar tissue removed.

“It feels really good, thank God, and honestly, it does feel a lot better,” Bautista said through a translator.

Bautista is doing the same exercises he was doing before the recent procedure, work to strengthen his elbow, shoulder, lower body. He expects to start throwing in April, six months post-Tommy John surgery and doesn’t know if he’ll remain in Sarasota when the team leaves for the regular season.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said on Thursday that the Orioles are targeting Bautista’s return for Opening Day 2025, but Bautista tried to hedge.

“If I’m feeling good and everything’s feeling well, for me to come back before that, we’ll see,” he said.

Bautista had an exceptional 2023. He was named the American League’s Reliever of the Month three times, made the All-Star team and won the Mariano Rivera award for top AL reliever. He was 8-2 with a 1.48 earned-run average and 33 saves. Most impressive was that he struck out 110 of the 237 batters he faced.

After Bautista was injured, the Orioles had him rest until he threw some bullpen sessions. He hoped he could pitch in the postseason, but it was determined that he needed to have the surgery. Bautista could only watch as the Orioles were swept in three games against the Texas Rangers.

“At the time, we still weren’t sure if surgery was absolutely necessary,” Bautista said. “It wasn’t until a second round of testing that we realized: ‘Alright, it’s worse than we thought,’ and that’s when the decision to have surgery came around.”

Bautista had to watch the last few weeks of the regular season, but he did celebrate with his teammates when they clinched a playoff berth and the AL East title. The 6-foot-8 Bautista was a big reason for the team’s unexpected success.

“It was difficult, but at the end of the day, it was something I couldn’t really control,” Bautista said. “I tried to give the best emotional support to the team I could and be there for them in any way I could.”

Bautista has asked other pitchers who’ve gone through Tommy John surgery about their experience.

“I’ve actually had a few friends who have had Tommy John as well, so I’ve been able to talk to them about what that process has looked like,” Bautista said.

The Orioles, who signed Craig Kimbrel to be their closer this season, will miss Bautista’s arm, but they’re still enjoying his presence.

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