Tate 'looks unbelievable,' ready for '24 after missing '23

January 31st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- Before Brandon Hyde arrived in Baltimore for last week’s Birdland Caravan, the Orioles’ manager made a stop at the team’s Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Fla. While there, he caught a glimpse of right-hander .

After missing all of the 2023 season due to right elbow/forearm injuries, Tate is raring to go in ‘24. That’s why the 29-year-old was already getting in some work at the team’s Spring Training facilities earlier this month, well before pitchers and catchers are required to report on Feb. 14.

“Looks unbelievable, [he] feels great,” Hyde said of Tate. “He was a go-to guy for us a couple of years ago and really established himself as a right-on-right, late-inning bullpen guy. We missed him last year, so we’re hoping for the best and we’re hoping he can help us this year.”

If Tate returns to his 2022 form, he could join All-Star righty Yennier Cano and lefties Danny Coulombe and Cionel Pérez as top setup options for the Orioles in ‘24. That unit will aim to bridge the gap from the starters to Craig Kimbrel, who will serve as the closer in place of the injured Félix Bautista (out for the year following Tommy John surgery).

Tate, a four-year MLB veteran who broke into the big leagues with Baltimore in 2019, had a breakout season in ‘22. He set career marks in ERA (3.05), appearances (67), innings (73 2/3) and strikeouts (60) while recording a 0.99 WHIP.

Then, Tate had a “whirlwind” year in 2023, as he put it. He was supposed to represent the United States in the World Baseball Classic in March, but a flexor strain prevented him from participating.

During his recovery, Tate made 13 Minor League appearances over two rehab stints that spanned from late April to mid June. He never felt healthy enough to rejoin the Orioles, who went 101-61 and won the American League East title in his absence.

“That’s always the hope, to get back up whenever you’re in any rehab situation, and sometimes it shakes out and sometimes it doesn’t. And unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me,” Tate said. “Now, it’s my time to go back out there and play, so I’m ready.”

Because Tate was cleared by a doctor last September -- not in time for him to return for the postseason -- his offseason has been “pretty normal,” he said. The Harbor City, Calif., native spent some of that time in the Seattle area, where he worked out at the Driveline Baseball facility.

Baltimore’s bullpen was among the team’s strengths last season, posting a 3.55 ERA that ranked third in the AL and fifth in MLB. Even without Bautista, the relief corps has the potential to excel again in 2024, which Tate believes will be the case.

“We can compete with anybody, and I think we’ve shown that over the past few years,” Tate said. “The track record has continued to go up. I wouldn’t see any reason for it to not continue to keep trending the way that it is. We’re a competitive club. We’re ready to win.”

And Tate -- who was part of Orioles teams that lost 108 games in 2019 and 110 in ‘21 -- is eager for the opportunity to pitch for a squad now better positioned to reach the postseason.

“For me, it’s anything that I can do to help,” Tate said. “We’re obviously doing what we need to do as a club, and we’re showing people that we mean business. I’m ready to go out there and do what I need to do to help us win more than 101 games and into the next piece of the season.”