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Orioles starter Kyle Bradish placed on 15-day IL with right UCL sprain

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(Updated 4 p.m. Saturday)

The Orioles came up short in one of the most exciting games of the season on Friday night, but they suffered a far more consequential loss to their starting rotation.

On Saturday, Baltimore placed starting pitcher Kyle Bradish on the 15-day injured list with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Further testing will determine the next steps for the right-hander who was the ace of last year’s rotation.

Bradish exited the 5-3 extra-inning defeat to Philadelphia after throwing just 74 pitches over five innings. He had allowed only two earned runs on three hits while striking out four and walking one.

“After the fifth inning, he came to us and said that his elbow was bothering him,” manager Brandon Hyde said late Friday night. “We’re going to get further tests on that. Nothing really else to really say about that except he’s going to get further tests on his elbow.”

The discomfort came four months after general manager Mike Elias announced at the start of spring training that Bradish would begin the 2024 season on the injured list because of a right UCL sprain, an injury that was diagnosed in January. Many fans feared the worst at the time, but Bradish received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow and was able to compete a throwing progression that allowed him to return to the major league mound by early May.

The Game 1 starter in last October’s AL Division Series, Bradish has pitched to a 2.75 ERA this season while averaging a career-high 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings over eight starts covering 39 1/3 frames. He hadn’t allowed a home run over his first seven outings before Kyle Schwarber and Rafael Marchan went deep against him on Friday.

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Bradish’s first-inning strikeout of Phillies superstar Bryce Harper came on a 98.6-mph sinker, the fastest pitch of his career. While the 27-year-old’s average sinker velocity was 97.7 in the first inning, it fell to 94.7 in the fifth, another sign that something wasn’t quite right. Hall of Fame pitcher and broadcaster Jim Palmer noted on the MASN telecast that Bradish appeared to be flexing his elbow at one point during the outing.

“It’s really tough. I’m going to say a lot of prayers tonight,” veteran outfielder Austin Hays said. “He’ll just get it looked at, and we’ll kind of go from there. Anytime you know a guy’s battled back from an injury, when they have to come out of the game, that’s really tough.”

Bradish’s best start of the season came nearly three weeks ago when he pitched seven no-hit innings against the Chicago White Sox and was lifted after throwing a season-high 103 pitches. He was pushed back a couple days before making his start against Tampa Bay last Saturday, a game in which he allowed just one hit and struck out nine over six innings and 88 pitches.

The 2018 fourth-round pick out of New Mexico State finished his first full season in the majors last year with the AL’s third-best ERA (2.83) over 30 starts covering 168 2/3 innings. Bradish finished fourth in 2023 AL Cy Young Award voting.

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