Shoulder injury likely ends Wells' breakout campaign

September 23rd, 2022

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles placed right-hander on the injured list prior to Friday’s tilt against the Astros at Camden Yards, all but assuredly ending the season for one of their most promising breakout pitchers on a staff full of them.

Wells experienced some discomfort in his right shoulder after his outing on Monday, his third since returning from a left oblique strain. The discomfort -- later tabbed as inflammation -- didn’t subside after a bullpen session, and Wells was placed on the 15-day IL retroactive to Tuesday.

With just 13 games remaining and the severity of Wells’ injury history, this move is bound to end his season as he eyes the rotation once again in 2023.

“There's a pretty good chance, yeah,” said manager Brandon Hyde, noting this is the same injury that ended Wells’ season on Sept. 25 of last season. “It’s in a similar spot. He’s thrown a lot of innings this year, just felt the shoulder got a little sore after his last start.”

Wells was scheduled to start for the Orioles on Saturday, a game that will now go to promising right-hander Mike Baumann. Righty Spenser Watkins, recalled from Triple-A Norfolk in Wells’ stead after being optioned there when Wells returned from the oblique strain, will serve as a long-relief option in the bullpen.

Nevertheless, under the assumption that Friday’s news ends Wells’ season abruptly, it didn’t come without a share of head-turning. A surprise addition to the rotation this season in Spring Training after he spent parts of last season as the club’s closer, Wells was arguably the O’s most dependable starter.

Wells had a 3.38 ERA through 18 starts in the first half, many of which came on a restricted pitch count to manage his workload; He underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2019, lost the ’20 season due to the pandemic and only threw 57 innings last year in relief.

Wells' second half was wonkier; he struggled out of the gates after the All-Star break, leaving his July 27 start with the oblique injury that led to a month-plus absence, and he struggled to pick up his first-half success during his three starts between injuries.

“I don't think any of us knew what to expect, honestly, with putting him in the rotation,” Hyde said. “… I thought he was outstanding, I thought he exceeded expectations, I thought he looked like a really good Major League starter for the time he was out there and gave us a chance to win almost every time out. I thought he took a huge step forward this year. He's going to be better next year for it.”

The Orioles intend to have Wells compete for a spot in the rotation again this coming Spring Training. They hope the caution they exercised with him this season will serve as a platform for a higher workload in 2023, a year in which he’d presumably share the rotation with top prospects Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, as well as John Means, who continues to work back from Tommy John surgery. Also, don’t count out a free-agent or trade addition, as the O’s are expected to be active in the offseason.