Kyle Bradish takes another key step towards return to Baltimore Orioles' rotation

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

Tuesday, April 9, 2024, was a big day in Birdland. First, the Orioles rebounded from a disappointing series loss to the Pirates by spoiling the Red Sox home opener (for the second straight season), 7-1. Later on Tuesday, the Orioles announced that they were promoting Major League Baseball's number one prospect, Jackson Holliday, to Fenway Park to make his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Red Sox.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle, but still of great importance, was the announcement that Kyle Bradish will join High-A Aberdeen to make his first rehab start in his road to recovery.

Kyle Bradish's rehab assignment date set for Orioles

News of Bradish's return to the mound lines up with last month's report that Bradish would return to the Orioles sometime "early in the first half" of the season. This continues the dramatic 180 that Bradish is hoping to accomplish, going from the brink of Tommy John surgery (which would have kept him out until sometime in 2025) to potentially joining the Orioles' rotation after a handful of rehab starts.

Let's be clear: Bradish has yet to throw a pitch in a competitive game this season, and his return to the Orioles could hit a snag at any time during the process. But the trend of good news regarding Bradish's return is especially refreshing considering the recent - and troubling - increase in elbow injuries necessitating Tommy John surgery over the first week and a half of the season. In just a handful of days, righthanders Shane Bieber of the Guardians and Eury Perez of the Marlins announced that they would be undergoing Tommy John surgery, ending their respective seasons before they had gotten off the ground. Spencer Strider, one of baseball's best pitchers and the ace of the Atlanta Braves, was also recently placed on the Injured List, and Tommy John surgery may be on the horizon. Less heralded reliever Trevor Gott, who the Athletics signed this offseason to anchor the back of their bullpen, went under the knife for Tommy John surgery on April 3.

If Bradish escapes the start with Aberdeen unscathed, he would likely make 2-3 starts for Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk before returning to the Orioles sometime in late April or early May.

What will Kyle Bradish's return mean to 2024 Orioles season?

The impact of a Bradish return to the rotation cannot be understated. Indeed, I listed Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez as the two main keys to the Orioles repeating their 100-win 2023. Even with Corbin Burnes serving as the Orioles' ace, a healthy Bradish would mean the return of the American League's fourth-best ERA in 2023 to the rotation. Bradish's return, coupled with the eventual return of John Means, would strengthen the bullpen, as Tyler Wells and Cole Irvin would likely return to the pen upon their returns. Wells, in particular, has shined as an above-average, high leverage power arm to bridge the gap from starting pitcher to Craig Kimbrel.

Tuesday's news about Kyle Bradish represents another step of many in Bradish's potential return to the Orioles' rotation. There will be more ups and downs, potential bad outings in the minor leagues, and the blood-curdling words "Tommy John surgery" will be floating in the background until Bradish returns, successfully, to the rotation. But less than two months after the Orioles announced Bradish had sustained a UCL sprain, any news that has him returning to the mound and potentially avoiding surgery has to be considered "good news." And on a Tuesday where "good news" was in abundance, Orioles fans can enjoy dreaming about a rotation that will include Corbin Burnes, Kyle Bradish, and Grayson Rodriguez, sooner rather than later.