Bradish to open season on IL with UCL sprain

GM Elias: No timeline yet, but 'we’re prepping him for a lot of action in 2024'

February 15th, 2024

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles should have their new ace ready to go for the start of the 2024 season. However, their returning No. 1 starter will not be part of the Opening Day rotation.

While Corbin Burnes joined his new Baltimore teammates for the first day of Spring Training workouts on Thursday, was absent from the mounds at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. General manager Mike Elias announced that Bradish has a right UCL sprain and will begin the season on the injured list.

Bradish, who finished fourth in American League Cy Young Award voting last season, sustained the injury in January when the 27-year-old right-hander felt irritation while beginning his typical offseason throwing program. He underwent imaging and later received a platelet-rich plasma injection, and he’ll restart his progression on Friday.

“Everything is pointed in the right direction and going well right now at this time. But I’m not at a point where I want to start putting a timeline on when we’re going to see him in Major League action,” Elias said. “Right now, we’re prepping him for a lot of action in 2024, and we’re getting him ready for that as expeditiously and responsibly as possible, but there’s going to be some time involved.”

As the Orioles went 101-61 and won the AL East title in 2023, Bradish was the breakout star of the rotation. He pitched to a 2.83 ERA over 30 starts, racking up 168 strikeouts and recording a 1.04 WHIP in 168 2/3 innings.

It was a big step forward from Bradish’s 2022 rookie campaign, when he had a 4.90 ERA in 23 starts.

Baltimore’s rotation could also be without John Means at the start of 2024. The 30-year-old left-hander is a month behind the other starters in camp with his throwing program after his surgically repaired left elbow flared up and caused him to miss the postseason last year. His offseason featured a good bit of rest and icing on his elbow.

Elias wasn’t ready to rule out Means for Opening Day, but manager Brandon Hyde said he is assuming the southpaw won’t be in the rotation to open the season because of his delayed start to camp.

So, this could be the Orioles’ rotation when the 2024 season gets underway:

1. RHP Corbin Burnes
2. RHP Grayson Rodriguez
3. RHP Dean Kremer
4. RHP Tyler Wells
5. LHP Cole Irvin

Heading into the spring, it seemed likely both Wells and Irvin could shift to the bullpen. Now, they may both be needed to make starts early in the season.

Other pitchers with significant starting experience who are in Baltimore’s camp include: left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, right-hander Chayce McDermott (the O’s No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline), lefty Cade Povich (No. 10), righty Seth Johnson (No. 14), righty Justin Armbruester (No. 18) and righty Jonathan Heasley.

“I feel like we’ve always dealt with injuries and things really well, and I think that this is just going to be another one of those,” Hyde said. “This allows us to give other guys some opportunities. We do feel confident and comfortable with the guys that we have in camp that are rotation candidates.”

Elias said the Orioles will continue to look for potential ways to add to the group, but he wasn’t prognosticating any big moves in the near future.

“Right now, we’re happy to have all of the starting pitchers that we have,” Elias said.

That includes Burnes, the former National League Cy Young winner now leading the staff -- which he isn’t feeling any additional pressure to do in the absence of Bradish and potentially Means.

“I’m going to go out, I’m going to do my job. I can only pitch for one person on the team,” Burnes said. “So I’m going to go out there and prepare, and do what I do, and go out there every five days and give it all I’ve got.”

Bradish’s injury wasn’t a primary reason why the Orioles traded for Burnes on Feb. 1, Elias said. The club wanted a rotation upgrade before, even when it assumed Bradish would be ready for the start of the season.

But it sure helps to have somebody like Burnes to help alleviate the short-term loss of Bradish.

“Certainly, this is a demonstration of why you need a lot of starting pitchers,” Elias said. “These kinds of things will happen. We’re very hopeful to get him back and get all of these guys out on the field together at some point in 2024. But some of them have some processes ahead of them and we’ve got to get through those first before we can talk about game action."