Baltimore Orioles All-Star closer Félix Bautista will have Tommy John surgery, GM Mike Elias announced Saturday. Bautista will miss the rest of this season and likely the entire 2024 season as well. He was placed on the injured list back on Aug. 25 with what the Orioles initially called " " to his ulnar collateral ligament.
"We're going to miss the hell out of the guy," Elias said (per the Baltimore Sun). "We just ran out of time. It became evident to us that this wasn't going to get where it needed to go."
Bautista has been playing catch the last few weeks and he even threw in the bullpen earlier this month. That typically means the ligament tear was partial, and Bautista was either going to be able to pitch with it, or he wasn't. Saturday's news confirms he wasn't. Tommy John surgery typically comes with a 14-16 month rehab, so Bautista figures to miss all of next season.
Prior to the injury, the 28-year-old Bautista was having an incredible season, one that saw him pitch to a 1.48 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 61 innings. He went 33 for 39 in save chances and held opposing batters to a .144/.245/.215 line. A strong case could be made Bautista was the best reliever in baseball prior to his injury.
Baltimore has mostly gone with a closer by committee since Bautista's injury. This is what their bullpen looks like after Jorge López was designated for assignment Saturday:
- High leverage: RHP Yennier Cano and LHP Danny Coulombe
- Next in line: LHP Cionel Pérez, RHP Shintaro Fujinami, RHP Tyler Wells
- Middle relief: LHP DL Hall and RHP Jacob Webb
- Long: RHP Jack Flaherty
Cano is manager Brandon Hyde's moment of truth reliever. He typically gets used against the other team's best hitters in the late innings of close games, regardless of whether it's the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning. Cano has a 2.12 ERA in 72.1 innings this year and he excels at getting weak contact. Bautista's a bat-misser, Cano's a contact-manager.
Elias also confirmed Saturday that Bautista has signed a new two-year contract. It covers his final pre-arbitration year (2024) and his first year of arbitration (2025), and he will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2026 and 2027. The new contract gives Baltimore cost-certainty during Bautista's rehab years and it gives Bautista some peace of mind by ensuring him $2 million, split evenly between the two years, according to the Associated Press.
The Orioles enter Saturday with a 100-60 record. It is the sixth time in franchise history they've won 100 games. Baltimore has already clinched the AL East title and the best record in the AL, giving them a Wild Card Series bye and home-field advantage through at least the ALCS.