Uncertainty Further Clouds Orioles’ Starting Rotation After John Means Injury

The potential loss of John Means could be devastating for an Orioles starting rotation that already has some overriding concerns early this season.

Means left after the fourth inning of his team’s April 13 game against the Brewers with left forearm tightness. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde called the decision to pull Means from the game “precautionary,” and the club can only be hopeful that it is not a harbinger of things to come.

“Staying positive with it and optimistic, and hopefully it’s just a little bit of tightness he felt in the forearm,” Hyde said.

The uncertainty surrounding Means further clouds a foggy picture for an Orioles starting rotation already without a No. 5 starter.

As it stands, the Orioles (1-5) have Jordan Lyles, Bruce Zimmermann, Tyler Wells and Spenser Watkins in a rotation that appears to be a moving target. Keegan Akin and Mike Baumann are potential candidates to make a start after throwing out of the bullpen.

The Orioles also have Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish, who are already thriving at Triple-A Norfolk but the club certainly does not want to rush them to the majors.

Rodriguez, arguably the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball, earned his first Triple-A victory on April 14 in a 12-5 win against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Rodriguez allowed two runs on three hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. He has a 2.00 ERA and 0.56 WHIP through two games with the Tides.

Bradish also shined in his debut in a 3-1 win against the RailRiders. Bradish did not qualify for the win, but he threw four shutout innings, allowing one hit and no walks while striking out six.

The future looks bright for Rodriguez and Bradish, but it’s still too early for them to make the jump to the majors, although their major league debuts are inevitable this season.

That brings us back to the challenges with the Orioles’ rotation and Means’ immediate future. It would appear prudent that the Orioles would shut him down for a start or two even if test results look good.

This is not the first time that Means has dealt with an injury.

He went on the IL early last June with a left shoulder strain and wasn’t back in the rotation until July 20. It was the third time in three years he dealt with that type of injury. Means began the 2020 season on the IL with left shoulder fatigue and hit the IL in June 2019 with a left shoulder strain.

While the starting rotation remains uncertain, Means’ overall health is at the forefront of the players’ concerns.

“Obviously, a little worried because that’s our No. 1 guy out there, so when you see him go down, it’s never a good thing,” infielder Ramón Urías said. “We don’t really know what’s going on, so we’re not scared or anything like that. Just hoping for the best right now.”

Update: Means hit the 10-day IL on April 15 with a left elbow strain.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Todd Karpovich

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