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HOUSTON – Had the Orioles discovered a way to more accurately predict Ryan Mountcastle’s recovery from an injury to his left shoulder, they wouldn’t have waited until yesterday to remove him from the active roster. The data would have driven them.

Mountcastle kept making incremental gains in his recovery. Manager Brandon Hyde told the media on multiple occasions that the first baseman was “a little better” and might be available off the bench, at least in the field.

A few attempts to hit in the cage demolished the optimism that was building.

The description of left shoulder soreness was replaced by a more specific term - AC joint inflammation. Located at the tip of the shoulder where the scapula and clavicle come together.

Most injuries in this area start to improve within a week but can take much longer for a full recovery depending on the severity. The Orioles are hoping that Mountcastle is ready when eligible to come back.

Seven lineups in a row were posted without Mountcastle. His IL move can be backdated only three days, which puts his earliest return next Wednesday against the Nationals at Camden Yards.

A cruel blow for a player who missed a month with vertigo. And an untimely one for a team that watched him hit .324/.403/.494 in 50 games in the second half, with eight doubles, seven home runs and 27 RBIs.

“It’s tough,” said second baseman Adam Frazier. “Kind of a freak little deal, too, on a swing that, he takes hundreds of swings each day and week and whatever. So, kind of a weird deal, and a big loss for us because I think he showed how dangerous he was once he got back.

“Hopefully, we can get him right in the next week or so and be ready for the playoffs.”

* James McCann didn’t play yesterday, but he would have been a smart choice if the Orioles needed a bunt.

The backup catcher might not be the standard choice, but McCann brings a unique skill set.

McCann has six career bunt hits, including three in 2015 with the Tigers. He also registered one in 2016 and one in 2021 with the Mets, and he drove in a run Tuesday night on a safety squeeze.

His four bunts this season, including three sacrifices, are his highest total since 2016. His career best is nine in 2015.

McCann didn’t fear for his safety on the squeeze play. He’s almost been nailed in the face multiple times this season while squaring up but still got the job done.

Asked to rank the team’s bunters, outfielder Austin Hays said, “He’s got to be No. 1.”

“I mean, (Pete) Fairbanks threw a 100 mph fastball right at his forehead and he bunted it between his hands off the handle of his bat,” Hays said. “I’ve never seen that done before. When I saw that, he took the belt for best bunter on the team.”

* Attempts are ongoing to avoid putting closer Félix Bautista on the 60-day injured list and plotting ligament-reconstructive surgery for his right elbow.

Bautista grabbed his glove every day in Houston and headed outdoors, twice telling the media through interpreter Brandon Quinones that he couldn’t talk because he had to throw.

Yesterday was important because Bautista had another bullpen session before the game, following his mound work on Sunday.

The Orioles haven’t encountered many save opportunities since Bautista suffered a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, but his absence is taxing other relievers by scrambling roles and forcing some of them into games at inopportune times.

You've seen it.

* Catcher Adley Rutschman has reached base 237 times this season on 150 hits, 85 walks and two hit by pitches. He doubled and scored yesterday in the first inning and walked in the third.

His total before yesterday’s game tied for fifth in the American League and was the most by a primary catcher since Yasmani Grandal reached 240 times with the Brewers in 2019, according to STATS.

Rutschman also ranks second in Orioles history among primary catchers behind Javy López (236) in 2004. The 85 walks are second behind Mickey Tettleton’s 106 in 1990.

* Anthony Santander singled yesterday to score Rutschman and stole his fifth base in six attempts. He was 3-for-9 in his first six seasons totaling 438 games.

Santander never swiped more than one bag in a season until 2023.

Jorge Mateo leads the club with 29 steals, followed by Cedric Mullins with 19, Frazier with 10, Gunnar Henderson with nine and Santander and Ryan McKenna with five.

Frazier reached yesterday on an infield hit in the fifth inning and tried three times to steal. Ramón Urías fouled off two pitches and drew a walk.

Santander’s 39 doubles ranked second in the American League yesterday behind the Rangers’ Corey Seager (42).

* Triple-A Norfolk second baseman Connor Norby doubled yesterday and hit a grand slam. His second grand slam in two nights.

More people need to be talking about him. I know he's vulnerable to getting lost in all the prospect talk, but he's had a tremendous season. He's batting .289 with an .832 OPS, 38 doubles, three triples, 20 home runs and 89 RBIs. He also stole his 10th base.

Norby doesn't bring the same versatility as some other infield prospects - he's mainly a second baseman who also plays left field - but the 41st-overall draft pick in 2021 out of East Carolina is putting up big numbers. MLB Pipeline ranks him seventh among the organization's prospects.

Tyler Wells pitched again last night for Norfolk and allowed one run and two hits in two-thirds of an inning.

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