Signs of optimism: Felix Bautista diagnosed with partial UCL tear; may not be done in 2023.

Earlier today, MASN’s Roch Kubatko announced that all-star closer Felix Bautista has a partial tear in his UCL. The ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL) is a ligament that connects the inside of the upper arm to the inside of the forearm. It is also used to stabilize the arm. The injury tends to last “several weeks to months” without surgery, and it often depends on the severity of the tear. Bautista suffered this injury August 25th against the Colorado Rockies, but news on the injury was just released.

The diagnosis comes a few days after Bautista was seen playing catch with teammates at Fenway Park over the weekend. According to Orioles GM Mike Elias, the club is taking a “short-term approach right now” and that “long-term recovery options are still on the table.” When asked about the availability of the league’s best relief pitcher, Elias said “This is not over for 2023.”

The news sparked a lot of questions in the baseball world. This injury would likely need to be treated with Tommy John surgery. This typically takes around 12-18 months to recover from. This means that Felix Bautista would be ready to pitch by next September, and he’d miss the majority of the 2024 regular season. If he were to wait until after this season to get the surgery, it might take his entire 2024 season.

So the Orioles are tasked with a question here. Do you: rest Felix for the rest of the year and prep him for ’24? or do you roll the dice and send him back out there, but risk the injury getting worse? Mike Elias and company will have to evaluate their realistic world series chances, and then they might have their answer.

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