Orioles waiting to learn more about Bradish's injury before determining next step

The Orioles know the source of Kyle Bradish’s elbow discomfort. Next is figuring out what to do about it.

Bradish returned to the 15-day injured list this afternoon with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He exited last night’s game after the fifth inning, underwent tests and received the unfortunate news.

A decision is pending on whether Bradish will undergo season-ending surgery or attempt to rehab the elbow. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection in January and made his 2024 debut on May 2.

“He’s still going to get tests done and see other doctors,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “It’s just the next day, so we’re not jumping to any conclusions, but he’s going to see other doctors and see what happens.”

John Means and Tyler Wells won’t pitch again in 2024 due to UCL damage. Means is wearing a brace on his left arm after undergoing a second Tommy John procedure and Wells is waiting to have his ligament repaired.

Danny Coulombe is on the 15-day injured list with left elbow inflammation and the team doesn’t have any updates to share. Dean Kremer, on the 15-day IL with a right triceps strain, begins his rehab assignment Sunday at Triple-A Norfolk.

“It’s difficult,” Hyde said. “It’s part of the game. We’ve had our share so far this year and we have to rely on our depth and hope that we continue to throw the ball well. We’ve had a really good year on the mound and I’m positive that can continue. It stinks for Kyle and we’ll see what happens, but we just need other guys to step up.”

Hyde said he didn’t ask Bradish whether this is the exact same injury as the one sustained over the winter.

“His elbow was bothering him last when he came off the mound in the fifth,” Hyde said, “so he’s getting checked out today and the next couple days.”

Bradish’s velocity was exceptional in the early innings, reaching career-high readings, before a decline later in his start. Bradish shook his arm after a strikeout, which isn’t unusual for him.

“He does that a lot already, and I did notice he was throwing 99 in the first inning,” Hyde said. “Those mannerisms, he does that quite a bit.”

Bradish lasted eight starts, posting a 2.75 ERA and 1.068 WHIP with 53 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings. The Orioles hoped to move him through the summer in good health by providing extra rest when possible, giving him a week between starts when he faced the Rays last weekend.

"He's been bouncing from spring training till now, kind of bouncing in and out of, 'Hey I'm ready, hey I'm not, hey I'm ready, hey I'm not,' and that's difficult mentally, physically," said Cole Irvin. "You feel for him because you want him to be healthy, you want him pitching at his best. And he's definitely a guy in our rotation that we can rely on every fifth day. It's going to sting to not have him in the lineup if that's the decision that is going to be made. But we don't know. He could be bouncing back today and feeling great.

"Every day is different. You play 162 games for a reason, because you're going to lose guys and have them come back throughout the year. So just trying to stay positive-minded, I guess. Try to just keep our mindset, uplift him, make sure that we're still focused on the end goal, which is getting to the postseason. We know that the team's going to make the decisions that they're going to have to make to keep us in contention. By no means are we even worried ... I'm not even thinking about that stuff. I think we're just focused on tonight, winning a ballgame against the Phillies and doing the same thing tomorrow and then going to New York."

No amount of caution seems to work with the rash of elbow injuries throughout baseball this season.

“We got real fortunate the last couple years, and this year we’ve had our share so far,” Hyde said. “Part of the game, a lot of teams are dealing with it. We’ve just got to do our best to have the next guy step up.”

"It's just, baseball's beautiful and horrifying at the same time," Means said.

Hyde has his three starters set for next week’s series at Yankee Stadium and they likely will be announced on Sunday. Grayson Rodriguez and Corbin Burnes close out the weekend set against the Phillies, and Albert Suárez, rookie Cade Povich and Irvin would pitch in the Bronx if Monday’s off-day doesn’t prompt any changes.

“Those guys have done a great job so far and we’re going to need innings out of our rotation,” Hyde said. “I’m hoping that we can fill Kyle’s void as best as we possibly can, but it’s a big loss.”

'"We have a task here that needs to be done and a stretch of games here against some of the league's best, and that's exciting," Irvin said. "And if we're in that next-man-up mentality, that should be exciting for whoever is stepping in and stepping up. Suárez is a great example of that. He's had a great season so far and everyone's surprised, but you see his work, you see the way he goes about his business. You see the way Corbin goes. It's contagious. We have a great clubhouse to really help guys be that next guy."

Left-hander Nick Vespi was recalled for the fifth time this season, allowing Hyde to expand his bullpen to eight relievers.

“It’s really hard with a six-man rotation, honestly,” Hyde said. “We’ve done as well as we possibly could have done in that time. To have an eighth reliever is important right now.”

The Orioles could go back to a six-man rotation when Kremer is reinstated from the injured list. They don’t appear to have a set number of starts in mind for him with Norfolk.

“This just happened last night and I have no idea when Dean’s going to be here,” Hyde said. “We’ve got three guys lined up for the Yankees and we’ll go from there.”

Means said he's taking it "day-by-day" as he attempts again to return from Tommy John surgery. He could theoretically pitch in 2025 after having his latest repair work done on June 3.

"Going to try to do the best I can to get it back and get it right this time and, yeah, just try to get back," he said.

Means didn't consider skipping the surgery, which would have finished his career.

"I was going to get the second one no matter what," he said. "I still want to pitch, honestly. I would like to fail on the field before I give it up, and I feel like if I go out there I can still pitch and get outs. And I still feel really confident about my ability."

Means knew that his elbow didn't feel right while warming for his May 22 start in St. Louis, but he didn't want to burden the bullpen. He tossed three scoreless innings but his velocity was down noticeably and he looked uncomfortable.

"It had been hurting up until that outing and I was just trying to pitch through it and hoping that it would loosen up," he said. "In the bullpen, it didn't feel any better than the day after I pitched the last game. I just tried to go as long as I could. Luckily the rain delay kind of helped even out the playing field."

Going through the recovery and rehab after the April 2022 surgery provides a roadmap. He knows about the easy period in the first few weeks, doing nothing, and the monotony of it later. He also understands the physical and mental challenges, saying that he'll try to put less pressure on himself and worry more about his family and time spent with everyone.

"For right now I'm just trying to the plan, get everything settled and see what happens," he said.

There's also the uncertainty that comes with his pending free agency. The Orioles will take care of him through the rehab unless he signs with another club.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I don't really want to think about it right now. Just kind of see where it goes. But I feel really confident about my ability to pitch in the field. Just got to have the elbow keep up."

O's game blog: The Orioles and Phillies, Game 2
Bradish on IL with sprained UCL, lineups and notes
 

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