John Means can anchor the Orioles’ starting rotation for the next several years.
He sets the bar for the young pitching staff and gives his team the opportunity to win every five days or so.
Earlier this year, Means battled a left shoulder strain and had an uneven performance once he came off the injured list. However, he is poised to finish the year strongly. He has a 3.30 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in his past five starts.
Manager Brandon Hyde would like to see Means carry that momentum through September and into 2022. Means faces the Philadelphia Phillies Sept. 20.
“I’d like to see him finish strong and he’s going to be facing some good teams,” Hyde said. “Hopefully, he can have three or four good starts to the end of the year.”
Although Means hasn’t earned a win since July 31, he has pitched effectively and has been a victim of poor run support throughout most of his appearances.
In his last outing against the Yankees Sept. 15, Means allowed two runs and four hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 5.2 innings. It was the fifth time this season the Orioles failed to score a run while Means has been on the mound.
The Orioles average fewer than three runs when Means starts a game. They’ve scored one in his last three appearances while he’s been on the mound.
Means was forced to leave his June 5 start against the Cleveland Indians with shoulder tightness after facing just five batters. He underwent an MRI that revealed a left shoulder strain that shelved him from the major-league club for more than a month.
Means was activated from the injured list July 20 and had some struggles, allowing nine runs and 12 hits in 11.2 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals.
However, he has pitched well since those starts.
Overall, Means is 5-7 with a 3.41 ERA, 118 strikeouts, 25 walks and a 1.00 WHIP in 23 starts (132 innings).
If you ask Means about his performance, though, he’ll give you a blunt assessment.
“My changeup’s kind of sucked lately, to be honest,” Means said. “So the curveball was the pitch, it’s been the pitch that’s been more consistent. Hopefully, we can get everything working here soon.”
It’s common for Means to be his worst critic. He had success early in his big-league career and is now determined to live up to the expectations of being the ace.
In 2019, he was named to the American League All-Star team as the Orioles’ lone representative and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting after finishing 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA.
In 2020, he started the season on the IL (arm fatigue) and dealt with the death of his father. However, he put together a solid September during the abbreviated season and was 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA in 10 starts.
“He’s got high expectations,” Hyde said. “Having a lot of success early on in his career and making the All-Star team his rookie year and getting off to the start he did this year, I think that he feels like that’s the kind of pitcher he is. So, when he doesn’t live up to those expectations, he gets irritated.”
Hyde does not want to change Means’ mentality. He likes the competitive spirit of his best pitcher. However, he doesn’t want Means to take full responsibility for losses, which can wear on a young team.
The goal is for Means to one day take the ball in the postseason.
“I like the mentality but he’s definitely hard on himself,” Hyde said. “He’s a perfectionist and he’s a big-time competitor, and when he’s on the mound he feels like we should win the game, and when we don’t he takes it upon himself, he feels like he made a mistake for us to lose it, which normally isn’t the case.”
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