John Means was perhaps the Orioles’ most valuable trade chip.
He is a 28-year-old top-of-rotation pitcher who has dominated opponents. However, the Orioles are hanging onto Means and building their future rotation around. That’s just fine for the savvy left-hander.
“I’m excited for where this team is going,” Means said.
Means recently dealt with a left shoulder strain for the second time in three years. And for a second time, he has bounced back from the injury.
Means dominated hitters in the early part of the 2021 season and tossed a no-hitter May 5 against the Seattle Mariners. He allowed nine runs in his next four starts (24.1 innings).
However, he was forced to leave against the Indians after facing just five batters June 5 with shoulder tightness. He underwent an MRI that revealed a left shoulder strain that shelved him more than a month from the major league club.
Means was activated from the IL on July 20 and had some struggles, allowing nine runs and 12 hits in 11.2 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals.
He had a bounce-back game in his last outing against the Detroit Tigers July 31, when he allowed one run and four hits with six strikeouts in six innings.
Means is hoping to maintain that type of performance moving forward.
Overall, Means is 5-3 with an impressive 2.84 ERA.
“I definitely still have some things to work on, but as far as the results go, I like it,” Means said. “I liked the changeup [July 31]. Pretty satisfying. That was my favorite part, getting close to 100 pitches again, being able to get to that point.”
The Orioles are also playing well as a team and have gone 10-6 since the All-Star break. The team did not make many moves at the trade deadline, so the core roster is intact from the beginning of the season. The players are competing with more confidence and learning what they need to do to win games.
“I feel like guys are starting to kind of feel for what they need to do to have success at this level,” Means said. “Especially the young guys. They’re seeing how teams are approaching us, especially from the pitching side, and adjusting to it — which is the name of the game, making those constant adjustments. So, it’s really cool to see.”
Orioles general manager Mike Elias was tempted to pull the trigger on a few moves at the trade deadline but decided he didn’t like the return. The rebuilding plan is moving forward as scheduled, and the Orioles are finding players that can make a long-term impact, including Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Trey Mancini and Means.
“We’ve seen some very good individual developments this year, particularly with Cedric, Trey coming back healthy, getting some positive steps forward from an Austin Hays and, obviously, John Means, and some of our core impact talent in the minor leagues is inching closer,” Elias said. “The organization is in much better shape, but I continue to be daunted by what I see in our division and what I see around the league.
“You see there are super teams on both sides of the league right now, the American League and National League, with some very loaded rosters, so we have a very long way to go, we have a lot of work to do.”
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