Another day has passed without an update on Orioles closer Félix Bautista beyond the injury to his ulnar collateral ligament. He walked off the field Aug. 25 with two outs in the ninth inning and two strikes on his last batter, and he underwent further testing to determine the severity of the injury and whether surgery was necessary.
Bautista earned his first hold of the season. Everyone else remains on hold.
The Orioles went 3-2 heading into last night’s game in Arizona after placing Bautista on the 15-day injured list. The last three margins were nine, six and five runs, making Bautista’s absence less noticeable.
Yennier Cano earned a save the night after Bautista’s removal from the bullpen, but he would have been the designated closer anyway. Bautista had appeared in three of the past four games and gone back-to-back. Manager Brandon Hyde wasn’t put in a bind.
The Orioles lost 4-3 to conclude the Rockies series. An unearned run scored off Cano in the top of the ninth inning. No save situation.
The Diamondbacks won last night, 4-2, to maintain the non-save situation streak.
Hyde has indicated, as expected, that the closer role will be more of a joint effort, with availability and matchups among the factors. But Cano is the logical preference with his five saves before last night, and his All-Star credentials. He should have first dibs.
The bullpen depth provides a few other options, including Danny Coulombe, who earned his first two career saves this season.
Tyler Wells wasn’t in the first wave of call-ups as rosters expanded yesterday, but he’s coming. In a relief role. With experience closing as a Rule 5 pick.
Wells has surrendered 25 home runs this season, second on the club behind Dean Kremer’s 26, and in six fewer games and 36 1/3 innings. Maybe that makes some folks nervous. Or maybe it’s less of a risk if he’s working in shorter spurts. Like, say, the ninth.
We won’t know what version of Wells is rejoining the club until he arrives. What the reset, or whatever it’s called, did for him.
Whatever the Orioles do, they aren’t fooling themselves into thinking that the impact of Bautista’s injury can be minimized. Someone else can take the ball when he’d normally do it. Games can be won and saved. A division can be won. But those spikes can’t be filled.
Next man up is the proper attitude, but there are limits.
“You can say that, but who’s going to replace Bautista? Nobody, absolutely nobody,” said Austin Voth.
“We’re going to do the best we can to fill in those gaps and those holes, but it just sucks. Everything about it. But we’ve got to continue pushing on.”
Every team deals with injuries and other types of losses. The Rays were dragged many steps further with Wander Franco going on administrative leave. Pity isn’t coming to the Orioles outside of the organization.
“I think the bullpen knows what we lost. The whole team knows what we lost,” said Jacob Webb.
“He’s a great guy and that’s a tough injury situation, anything to have happened, but hopefully he has a speedy recovery and hopefully we’ll see him down the line. But everyone out in the bullpen, we’re there to pick him up and do whatever we can to keep winning ballgames and keep the situation how it is.”
* The Orioles are seeking their first road series win in Arizona, going 0-4. Per STATS, this is their lowest road series percentage against any opponent.
Among the small sample sizes, the Orioles are 0-2 in series played in Colorado, 0-5-1 in Miami, 0-3-1 in Pittsburgh and 2-5-1 in Queens.
The Diamondbacks won two of three games against the Orioles in July 2019. The Orioles’ lone victory, by a 7-2 score, began with Dylan Bundy on the mound and Jonathan Villar leading off and playing shortstop and later second base.
Chance Sisco was the catcher and No. 3 hitter in the lineup. Renato Nuñez was the third baseman and cleanup hitter.
So much has changed.
Anthony Santander was in center field, where he made 20 starts that year. None since then.
* The six-man rotation, which might swap out names but seems set with the number, makes it easier to figure out the starters for each three-game series. This is simple math, even for the most challenged.
Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish and Jack Flaherty in Phoenix meant Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer and Kyle Gibson in Anaheim, which meant Irvin, Bradish and Flaherty in Boston following the off-day, unless the Orioles are up to some shenanigans.
And keeping everyone in order meant the Cardinals series at Camden Yards beginning Sept. 11, the penultimate homestand of the regular season, wouldn’t include Flaherty, thus denying everyone a revenge game.
Flaherty would get the Rays during a crucial four-game set, and if we’re looking that far ahead, he’s never faced them.
John Means should be reinstated from the injured list long before that series. Unknown to us is whether he’s in the rotation or bullpen.
I don’t know whether Means has been told, or if the Orioles have made a final call.
"Really encouraged by his outing last night," Hyde told the assembled media in Phoenix. "Another guy we are monitoring. I haven't heard the reports how he is today. I'm assuming it's fine. But continuing to watch him closely and hopefully he can impact us in September at some point."