Orioles breakout closer Félix Bautista shut down for rest of season with left knee discomfort

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			Orioles breakout closer Félix Bautista shut down for rest of season with left knee discomfort
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With closer Félix Bautista still dealing with left knee discomfort, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Bautista will be shut down for the final three games of the season.

With his high-velocity fastball and captivating entry that included flashing lights and Omar’s Whistle at Camden Yards, Bautista became one of the top-level closers this year. Hyde said there’s no concern about the knee discomfort leading to anything more serious after he landed oddly in the eighth inning of Friday’s game against the New York Yankees.

Bautista was officially placed on the 15-day injured list Monday, with right-hander Yennier Cano recalled to replace him. The Orioles finish their season on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

When the Orioles traded closer Jorge López to the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline in August, Bautista, 27, was the next in line to assume those save situations. He took the role with aplomb, and he finished with 15 saves with just two blown saves.

His splitter took center stage as one of the most dominant pitches in baseball, with a run value of -6, according to Statcast — no other reliever had a splitter with a better run value, and Bautista ranked fifth overall. Bautista’s four-seam fastball, which topped 100 mph on 203 occasions, was the best on the Orioles with a -14 run value. (Run value measures a pitch’s impact on how many runs an opponent scores based on the situations it’s used, with lower being better for pitchers.)

Bautista finished with a 2.19 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings in 65 games. Bautista also dealt with arm fatigue near the end of the season after he completed a six-out save last month.

“Just so happy with the season he’s had and him going forward,” Hyde said. “What a great story. Great story for us, great story for him.”

Before the season began, Bautista, who didn’t reach the Triple-A level until late last season, was somewhat of a wild card. He began his career with the Miami Marlins but was released in 2015. He joined Baltimore the next year, navigating his way through rookie ball in the Dominican Summer League for his first two seasons with the organization.

He reached affiliate play in 2019, then took off in 2021 by rising three levels by the season’s end. While he averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings last year, he increased his strike-throwing capabilities entering spring training and broke camp with the team. He quickly earned a late-inning role, then took over as a closer to finish the season with a 0.93 WHIP.

“Loved watching him pitch,” Hyde said, “and looking forward to him next year.”

The start of recovery

Infielder Ramón Urías said his right knee sprain will take eight to 12 weeks to heal, with the first month requiring rest before he begins rehab.

Urías suffered the injury last week against the Boston Red Sox. He first felt the pain sliding into home plate Wednesday, but he figured he could play through it. Later in the game, as he ran from second to third, Urías felt “a pop and some pain,” but the injury won’t require surgery.

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