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As Bradish starts rehab assignment, Orioles place Wells on 15-day IL with elbow inflammation

BALTIMORE — On the same night Kyle Bradish began his much-anticipated rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie, the Orioles revealed a new concern for their starting rotation.

Less than 20 minutes before the start of Tuesday’s game against Minnesota, Baltimore placed starting pitcher Tyler Wells on the 15-day injured list with what was listed as “right elbow inflammation.” Wells had been scheduled to start the series finale against the Twins on Wednesday afternoon, but the Orioles didn’t announce his replacement immediately following the 11-3 win.

The 29-year-old Wells was experiencing more soreness than normal “that didn’t quite go away” after last Friday’s start against Milwaukee, according to manager Brandon Hyde.

“We’re staying optimistic about it. We decided for precautionary reasons to put him on the IL with right elbow soreness,” Hyde said. “But we’re really confident that he’s going to be OK and that it’s not going to be too long.”

The Orioles selected the contract of catcher David Bañuelos from Triple-A Norfolk to temporarily fill Wells’ roster spot for Tuesday’s game.

It’s been a difficult start to the season for Wells, who was in the starting rotation with Bradish and John Means on the injured list and working their way back from their own elbow ailments. After registering a quality start in his 2024 debut, Wells allowed a combined seven earned runs and 13 hits over his last two starts covering 9 1/3 innings. He expressed frustration after his last start in which he surrendered four runs over four innings and took the loss in an 11-1 final.

“I didn’t give the team a chance to win today, and that really pisses me off,” Wells said last Friday. “I’m going to go out there throughout this next time into my bullpen [session] and get ready for the next one and take care of business.”

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Wells was one of Baltimore’s best starters over the first half of 2023 — posting a 3.18 ERA over 104 2/3 innings — before he began dealing with some arm fatigue and was optioned to the minors in July. He transitioned to a relief role and eventually returned to the majors as a member of the bullpen in late September. Entering spring training, many figured Wells would continue in a relief role before general manager Mike Elias announced Bradish and Means wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day.

While the elbow concerns for Wells create an opening in the rotation, the Orioles had to be pleased with the results from Bradish in his first live-game action since Game 1 of the 2023 AL Division Series. Completing three scoreless innings on 44 pitches, the 27-year-old right-hander allowed one hit and no walks while striking out four for the Baysox. According to several reporters at the game in Bowie, Bradish’s fastball velocity was in the mid-90s, a promising sign as he works his way back from a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that was discovered in January.

On Monday, manager Brandon Hyde said Bradish getting his pitch count between 40 and 50 pitches would be the “best-case scenario” for his first rehab start.

Means is also nearing a return to the majors as he prepares to make a fourth rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday. After allowing seven runs and lasting only one inning in his first rehab start on March 31, the 30-year-old lefty has looked better over his last two outings — allowing three earned runs and striking out seven over a combined six frames — and threw 61 pitches in his most recent start. Of course, Means returned from 2022 Tommy John surgery last September and pitched well over four starts before left elbow soreness sidelined him for the ALDS and much of the offseason, which led to his late beginning to 2024.

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