Tate to begin season on injured list; Bautista and Hall also ailing

SARASOTA, Fla. – The opening day roster projections in Orioles camp took a huge hit before players filtered onto the back fields for the first workout with pitchers and catchers.

Reliever Dillon Tate will begin the season on the injured list after straining his right flexor/forearm in November. The explanation for why he isn’t pitching in the World Baseball Classic.

Closer Félix Bautista is questionable for opening day because he’s been rehabbing his left knee all winter and immersed in a strengthening program for his right shoulder, which will keep him out of games until later in spring training.

Left-hander DL Hall also is going to be slow-played in camp after experiencing lower right lumbar discomfort about three weeks ago.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias began this morning’s media session by listing the injuries and trying to offer projections on time missed.

Tate could be out for the first month, Elias said, after the right-hander appeared in 67 games last season and posted a 3.05 ERA and 0.991 WHIP in 73 2/3 innings.

“He’s doing very well but will not be appearing in Grapefruit League action until very late, if at all, and he will almost certainly start the season on the IL and miss most of, it not all of April,” Elias said. “But we expect him back toward the end of April or the early part of May at this point in time, and that’s going well.”

Tate downplayed the significance of the injury and its impact on the start of his season.

"Not really too disappointed about it," he said. "It's one of those things where it's just part of the game and I get better when I get better and I'll be ready to go when it's time to go."

Missing the WBC also is taken in stride, without a hint of frustration or disappointment.

"It's every four years, so I can always get ready for the next one and make myself better," he said. "Not really looking at it that way."

Tate is playing catch, with light throws, and working out.

"I can still do everything, it's just not as intense," he said.

Tate wasn't able to do his usual intense throwing at Driveline Baseball in Washington.

"I didn't really do any throwing," he said. "Everything is right now with all of that, so we'll just see how everything progresses."

The discomfort is kept in check for the most part, as long as Tate maintains an easy intensity. The athletic training staff will let him know when he can begin ramping up.

Bautista was shut down for a portion of September with shoulder fatigue, and a sprained knee forced him onto the injured list on Oct. 3. His rookie season already was a tremendous success, with Bautista registering a 2.19 ERA and 0.929 WHIP in 65 games, recording 15 saves as Jorge López’s replacement and averaging 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

“He’s throwing off a mound right now, throwing bullpens and looking good,” Elias said, “but will be a little bit later into getting into real Grapefruit League games than the normal player might be. He could be able to break for opening day, depending on how much of a ramp-up we’re able to get him.”

Whether Bautista avoids the IL depends on how many innings he accumulates in Florida to be declared ready to close games.

“He’s healthy,” Elias said, “but it’s put him behind in terms of schedule and how many real spring training games he projects to get at this point. He’s behind a normal schedule.”

Hall made his major league debut Aug. 13 with a start against the Rays in St. Petersburg, and he returned in September after converting into a relief role. Hall allowed one run with 11 strikeouts in his last eight appearances over 8 2/3 innings.

The lumber discomfort is “resolving, if not resolved,” Elias said, “but it’s put him a little bit behind in terms of a build-up.”

“We’re going to have him on a starter build-up, which takes a little bit longer, so he may be a little bit later getting into Grapefruit League games, as well,” Elias said.

Elias offered more positive news on left-hander Nick Vespi, who remains in play for the opening day roster – and the bullpen uncertainties could open the door for him – after he underwent hernia surgery in January.

“That will put him a little bit behind getting into Grapefruit League games,” Elias said. “I do think we’ll see him in some. It’s TBD whether he’d be an availability for opening day, but it’s definitely possible. We’ll just kind of have to see how the spring goes.”

The bullpen picture becomes fuzzier with today’s news.

Tate and Bautista were regarded as two of the five locks, along with Cionel Pérez, Mychal Givens and Bryan Baker. Rule 5 pick Andrew Politi could be in a stronger position to break camp now. Joey Krehbiel, Keegan Akin and some of the starter candidates, including Mike Baumann, Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmermann, also could see their chances increase.

“I think bringing Givens in, especially from the right side, will help mitigate the loss of Tate in April, but it’s concerning that one of our better relievers is not going to be on the opening day roster,” Elias said. “I know he’s bummed about missing the WBC, but he’s doing well. He’s a pitcher. Injuries happen. This shouldn’t last too long.”

Manager Brandon Hyde said the club is really encouraged by how the injured pitchers are progressing. Tate has made huge strides the last few weeks, and Bautista has been in Sarasota for the majority of the winter.

“Looks great, feels great,” Hyde said of Bautista.

Hyde also is enthusiastic about the bullpen alternatives that could soften the blows.

“You can never have enough good arms,” Hyde said. “We’re going to have other things coming up, too. These things happen and it’s part of the game, but we feel great about the depth that we have in camp. Those are two huge pieces of our team. Just want to see them get healthy and get out there.”

Infielder Ramón Urías also was expected to participate in the WBC, joining brother Luis on Team Mexico, but he didn’t make the final roster. He’s full-go for workouts.

Urias said the WBC wouldn't provide medical insurance coverage due to concerns about the knee that he injured last in the season in Boston. The Orioles don't share those concerns.

"It was very disappointing because I was very excited to represent my country and play with my brother in that tournament, but unfortunately it won't happen," he said, adding that he's full-go in camp.

“I can’t speak to the selections,” Elias said. “It’s not really any of our business, but he’s healthy, he’s going to be a normal guy here in camp, so he’s doing well. I just sat down with him yesterday. He knows the plan is for him to play a little more second base than he did last year, but he’ll be at third base half the time, as well, and he’s going to get a ton of playing time.”

Everyone who’s due in camp has arrived. No one is experiencing visa issues, according to Elias.

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