FORT MYERS, Fla. – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde wants to get closer Félix Bautista three or four more appearances until the club breaks camp. Availability for Opening Day looks promising.
Bautista has retired all six batters faced in his first two outings, striking out four and totaling 24 pitches. Almost too efficient.
“I feel really confident with how things have been going,” he said this morning via translator Brandon Quinones. “I’ve been trying to focus heavily on attacking hitters, working on my secondary pitches to make them more effective, and I feel like things have been going really well and I feel confident.”
Bautista said he feels great today after retiring the Twins in order yesterday on only nine pitches.
“Just talked to our training staff,” Hyde said. “He responded very well from yesterday’s game, so love where he is right now.”
Bautista was held back in camp due to the treatment received on his left knee and exercises done to strength his right shoulder – two problem areas toward the end of his 2022 rookie season. His spot on the Opening Day roster was dependent on how many innings he accumulated in exhibition games.
“I feel like I’m starting to get back into the rhythm little by little,” he said. “I feel like I’m slowly but surely working my way up to being at that same level like I was during the season.”
The fastball reached 100.1 mph yesterday against the Twins, and both strikeouts came on his splitter.
“Right now, my main objective is just attacking hitters, focusing on making sure my arm feels good and it’s ready to go,” said Bautista, who appeared in 65 games last season and posted a 2.19 ERA and 0.929 WHIP with 88 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. He recorded 15 saves, becoming the primary closer after Jorge López was traded to the Twins at the deadline.
“So far, I feel really good with how everything is going and we’ll see what happens.”
Bautista expects to pitch again on Monday in Clearwater, his third road game. He paused in the stands yesterday at Hammond Stadium to sign autographs for some young fans during the ninth inning of the Orioles’ 5-3 win over the Twins.
“That was good,” he said. “That wasn’t my intention, to go out there and sign, because I was actually going out with one of my friends, but they came up to me and I decided to do it.”
Gunnar Henderson isn’t on today’s trip to Fort Myers after starting at shortstop yesterday and stopping an 0-for-15 skid with a triple. He’s 3-for-23 with nine strikeouts.
“Young player trying to impress in camp I think a little bit early, but that was a great swing yesterday,” Hyde said. “He’s got so much ability. Just needs at-bats right now. We’ll try to give him as many as we can here the last 10 days, two weeks we have.”
Bryan Baker allowed another run yesterday on a two-out homer and is carrying a 14.29 ERA in six appearances, but Hyde isn’t worried about the reliever’s poor results.
“Yesterday just hung a changeup there for a homer but he had good stuff besides that,” Hyde said. “Pretty much those guys in the bullpen last year, kind of just looking at where they are stuff-wise, and he just made some mistakes. But the fastball velocity was there yesterday. Just made a bad pitch with the changeup. The cutter-slider was better yesterday, so those are positives. He’s going to have a few more appearances, also, to get as sharp as he can before we break.”
Tyler Wells starts Sunday’s split-squad game against the Yankees in Tampa. He’s allowed nine runs and 11 hits in seven innings, but he’s walked only two batters and struck out 11.
Wells is fighting to keep his rotation spot.
Asked whether this is an important start for Wells, Hyde said, “I think every outing’s important right now.”
“We know what Tyler’s done for us the last two years, and last year arguably being one of our best starters really the first two-thirds of the season before he got hurt, and how well he pitched in a unique circumstance the year before. So we know the kind of ability Tyler has,” Hyde said.
“Now, we’re just trying to make things fit. We’re a little more talented, we have more rotation depth. Tyler’s a really good pitcher. He’s off to a little bit of a tough start early in spring training, but we know what he’s capable of.”