BALTIMORE — The “Dead Fish” that captivated Orioles fans during the shortened 2020 and earlier this season is now on the shelf as struggling reliever Cesar Valdez was placed on the 10-day injured list prior to Monday’s series opener against Houston.
The right-hander allowed two earned runs, three hits, and a walk in the eighth inning of Sunday’s 7-4 loss to Toronto, which was his first appearance in a week. Manager Brandon Hyde made no mention of Valdez dealing with a lower back strain in his pre-game press conference roughly an hour before the announcement was made. Right-hander Travis Lakins was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take Valdez’s place in the bullpen.
On the heels of using his mesmerizing changeup to pitch to a surprising 1.26 ERA in 14 1/3 innings last season, Valdez began 2021 as Baltimore’s closer, recording a 1.23 ERA and eight saves through his first 13 appearances. However, he’s surrendered at least one run in eight of his last 12 appearances, posting an 11.25 ERA since May 11. Seeing few high-leverage situations in recent weeks, the 36-year-old owns a 5.74 ERA and has struck out 29 batters in 26 2/3 innings this season.
Valdez was one of the better stories of 2020 by returning to the major leagues for the first time since 2017, so the Orioles will hope he can get back on track with that changeup the league had seemingly figured out since mid-May.