BALTIMORE — All-Star reliever Félix Bautista was placed on the 15-day injured list Saturday by the Baltimore Orioles, who can only hope his ailing elbow won’t keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.
“Early indications are he has some degree of injury to the ulnar collateral ligament,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “We have not firmed down any timetable or anything of that nature.”
Although a UCL injury can lead to Tommy John surgery, Elias expressed hope that the team’s closer can return to help the AL East leaders secure a playoff berth or perhaps provide aid in the playoffs.
If not, then the Orioles simply will have to proceed without him.
“A Félix Bautista absence, even if it’s a short one, is not something that’s easy to cover. He’s the best reliever in baseball right now,” Elias said. “But we do have many talented arms.”
The injury occurred Friday night in Baltimore’s 5-4 victory over Colorado. Bautista retired the first two batters in the ninth inning and had a 2-2 count on Michael Toglia before the right-hander walked off the mound in obvious discomfort following his 12th pitch.
After being examined by team trainers, Bautista left the game.
Elias believes the injury occurred on that final pitch and was not the result of throwing in discomfort.
“I don’t want to speculate, but it looked to me like that one particular pitch might have had some unfortunate movement pattern,” the GM said. “He was not having any issues prior to that pitch.”
Bautista this season has established himself as one of baseball’s most imposing and effective closers. The 6-foot-8, 285-pounder is nicknamed “The Mountain” because of his size, and his fastball regularly is clocked in excess of 100 mph.
Bautista took the loss for the AL All-Stars in July, allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning, but that hasn’t tarnished his accomplishments for the surprising Orioles, who own the second-best record in the majors (80-48 through Friday). Bautista is 8-2 with a 1.48 ERA with 33 saves in 39 opportunities.
The 28-year-old has 110 strikeouts and just 26 walks in 61 innings over 56 games.
“Félix has been such a massive part of our team. Best closer in the game,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s been amazing to watch him do what he does. Last night sucked. Bottom line. Just hoping for the best for him.”
All-Star reliever Yennier Cano, veteran Danny Coulombe and left-handed rookie DL Hall — who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday to replace Bautista — are among those in the bullpen who will try to cover for the loss of Bautista.
“The group’s going to rally around itself. We’ll figure out how to do the best we can however long his absence is,” Elias said. “I’m most sad for Félix himself, because this was just a dream season he had, was having.”
The news comes on a night the Orioles were staging a Félix Bautista bobblehead giveaway, a promotion that was expected to draw a huge crowd for the second game of the series against the Rockies.