One of the key parts of the Baltimore Orioles bullpen is officially back in game action. Closer Félix Bautista took the mound for the Orioles on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitching in the Orioles 7-6 victory. It was Bautista's Grapefruit League debut as he builds up from shoulder soreness and a knee sprain.
Bautista, one of the most important options in the bullpen, pitched the first inning of Tuesday's contest before giving way to 2 1/3 innings from Tyler Wells. He needed 15 pitches to set down the Pirates, striking out two Pirates hitters.
Oneil Cruz was the first Pirates hitter to take on Bautista, striking out in just three pitches, seeing a fastball and two splitters from Bautista. His splitter is a truly dominant pitch, and Cruz was introduced to it on Tuesday.
Bryan Reynolds was the next man up, with the Orioles closer inducing a groundout. Ji-Man Choi came next and a long at bat ensued. On pitch number seven, Bautista caught Choi looking at a fastball for strike three, clocked at 97.3 miles an hour on the outside corner. Inning over.
Bautista threw 10 strikes total out of his 15 pitches, doing a good job of filling up the strike zone. His next scheduled outing is on Friday against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers as he continues to ramp up in the hopes of being ready for opening day on March 30 in Boston. Bautista had this to say on his recovery process:
"I feel really confident with how everything is going, with where my body’s at, and it’s a big reason why I felt really good today."
Bautista's season ended prematurely in 2022 due to left knee soreness, and he had a slow ramp up this spring while recovering his knee and dealing with fatigue in his throwing shoulder. After bullpens and live batting practice sessions, Bautista is back in game action, and Omar's Whistle should continue to sound at Camden Yards for the Orioles home opener.