Baltimore Orioles closer, Félix Bautista, is a player to keep an eye on. The 27-year-old was named the presumptive closer ever since the Orioles traded Jorge López at the trade deadline. Since that trade, Bautista has responded as he has five saves and a 1.35 ERA over 14 1/3 innings. Bautista has emerged as one of manager Bradon Hyde’s top arms in the bullpen.
After the Trade
The trade of an All-Star closer like Lopez meant the possibility of the Orioles going by a closer by committee with the bullpen. Manager Brandon Hyde said Bautista, Dillon Tate, and Cionel Pérez would be the pitchers in that role, depending on matchups. Hyde felt he needed Bautista in that spot, and he’s been reliable ever since. For instance, he can reach up to 103 mph, as he did last night against Eloy Jiménez.
How Félix Bautista navigated that eighth inning:
• One devastating splitter low and away to Luis Robert
• One high 100.8 mph heater to José Abreu
• One fist pump from Adley Rutschman pic.twitter.com/15Yc1HEShB
— Zachary Silver (@zachsilver) August 24, 2022
Just a Rookie
It’s hard to believe that Bautista is just a rookie, but he’s come a long way. He made 40 appearances between three levels of minor league baseball, putting up a 1.54 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. Baltimore added him to their 40-man roster following the 2021 season. He made the Opening Day roster for the Orioles this season out of Spring Training.
After a decent Spring Training, the 6’5″ right-hander showed his consistent 98 MPH fastball, which hit 100 on many occasions, and had command and placement. He made the big-league club as a setup pitcher. It has taken him a while to get to this level, but now that he’s here, he’s proving he is more than capable of pitching at the MLB level.
Pressure as a Closer
Bautista was put in many different situations during the season. He excelled at being brought in to get the final out of an inning as he showed he could pitch more than one inning in a game. Being in the closer’s role adds more tension and pressure. The fact that Bautista is a rookie makes it even more of a challenge, but he continues to defy the odds.
The good news for the Orioles is that if Bautista struggles, they have other options to help shoulder the pressure if he struggles. Pérez and Tate, the two pitchers that would be part of the team’s closer-by-committee solution, have pitched very well. Pérez has a 1.71 ERA in 42 innings, with one save, whereas Tate has a 2.40 ERA with two saves.
The Orioles Continue to Surprise
The Orioles continue to surprise everyone. They have hung around the second half of the season in the AL Wild Card race. Most thought Baltimore would not contend for a playoff spot this year, but perhaps a season or two from now. Nevertheless, they believe they can win. With Bautista stepping in and showing he can handle the closer duties, it adds to the team’s underdog mentality.
Baltimore has a real shot to shock the baseball world down the stretch of the 2022 season and keep the playoff race fun for their fans. It’s just the beginning of the road for the up-and-coming Orioles.
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