Félix Bautista used to dream of being a better. Now that he’s right here, the Orioles right-hander isn’t settling. – The Mercury Information


Earlier than Félix Bautista started enjoying organized baseball, as a little bit child within the Dominican Republic, he’d watch the fanfare that may comply with a better coming into a sport and dream.

He’d dream that sooner or later, that fanfare could be for him as he entered with a sport on the road. These introductions have been a big a part of why Bautista picked up a baseball and determined to pitch. They led him on a path that featured a serious setback, a late improvement and in the end, the form of introduction he’d lengthy envisioned.

By the top of Bautista’s 2022 season with the Orioles, the rookie right-handed nearer would take the sector with floodlights flashing and Omar’s whistle from the HBO present “The Wire” enjoying. He was a comparatively unknown commodity final yr, starting with Excessive-A Aberdeen, however concluded his first season within the main leagues as a better with a dominant splitter, a triple-digit fastball and 15 saves.

Bautista is doing what he all the time dreamt of doing, even earlier than his potential took the type of 100-plus mph heaters and made him certainly one of baseball’s prime up-and-coming high-leverage arms.

“Each time I noticed closers coming in, and I used to be watching baseball as a child, I needed to be like them sooner or later,” Bautista mentioned by way of staff interpreter Brandon Quinones. “Wanting again, on the time it was one thing unreasonable to consider, one thing loopy.

“However now that I’m capable of dwell it, and go on the market and have my very own entrance, and go on the market and pitch that method, it’s one thing actually particular. And I take a number of satisfaction in that.”

Bautista’s journey to Baltimore wasn’t linear. He started within the Miami Marlins’ group, however he was launched as a youngster and spent the following yr out {of professional} baseball. When he was launched, “my dream and my imaginative and prescient was a bit tarnished and a bit murky after that,” he mentioned.

However when Bautista joined the Orioles, his energy on the mound finally coincided with extra management. His stroll price of 29% in 2019 dropped to fifteen% in 2021, and in 65 2/3 innings within the huge leagues this season, Bautista walked simply 9% of the batters he confronted.

With that improved command got here lofty strikeout numbers, as he punched out 34.8% of batters with a 2.19 ERA. Bautista’s four-seam fastball (-14) and splitter (-6) every ranked within the prime 15 within the majors in run worth, a measurement of a pitch’s influence on what number of runs an opponent scores primarily based on the conditions it’s used, with decrease being higher for pitchers.

“Simply so proud of the season he’s had and him going ahead,” supervisor Brandon Hyde mentioned. “What a terrific story. Nice story for us, nice story for him.”

Earlier than the season started, although, Bautista didn’t know whether or not this might be potential.

He entered spring coaching with one aim: To make the opening day roster. As soon as he achieved that, he achieved his remaining two targets for the yr as nicely, proving to Hyde he might deal with high-leverage conditions earlier than assuming the nearer accountability after Jorge López was traded to the Minnesota Twins on the Aug. 2 deadline.

Bautista’s season was reduce just a few days brief as he handled left knee discomfort after he landed awkwardly within the penultimate collection of the yr. He was positioned on the 15-day injured record, however Bautista mentioned there’s no long-term concern about his knee. Out of playoff competition, the Orioles opted to provide their flame-throwing nearer further time to relaxation, making certain he’s wholesome to coach this offseason.

Shortly after the season concluded this month, Bautista boarded a airplane to return to the Dominican Republic. It’s the place this dream started, watching closers on tv and envisioning his personal particular introduction sooner or later.

Bautista achieved that, with the flashing lights and Omar’s whistle a part of a breakout marketing campaign. However that was only a style of what Bautista hopes is on the horizon.

“It’s extremely motivating,” Bautista mentioned. “Now that I’ve that secured and have that in my again pocket, going into subsequent yr I’ll have new targets that I wish to attain and new issues I wish to accomplish. I’ll be actually excited going into subsequent season.”


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