BALTIMORE—When spring training began, pitcher John Means doubted that he’d make the Orioles’ Opening Day roster. A little more than three months later, Means is the Orioles’ only All-Star for the game in Cleveland on July 9.
Means, a 26-year-old left-hander, is 7-4 with a 2.50 ERA in 17 games, 13 of them starts. He has a WHIP of 1.097.
The Orioles mounted a spirited campaign to elect outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini as the team’s All-Star, but Means was chosen instead.
Before Sunday’s game, Means was called into manager Brandon Hyde’s office. General manager Mike Elias was waiting there.
“I wasn’t sure why I was going into the office,” Means said. “Actually, I walked in there and I was like, ‘I was trying to stay out of this office as much as possible at the start of the year’ because that’s how you get sent down, but he said, ‘Yeah, you’re an All-Star.’ I was just sitting there and I’m like, ‘You’re joking, this isn’t that funny.’ So, it was awesome.’”
Means didn’t have an easy path to the major leagues. Never a top prospect, Means was an 11th-round draft choice in 2014 and slowly made his way through the minor league system.
“Going into spring training, I was just trying to make a statement to the coaches to hopefully get a call-up at some point this year,” Means said. “I ended up being the last man on the roster. At the start of this year, just trying to go out there and do my best and see what happens, and now we’re here.”
In his five minor league seasons at every Orioles affiliate from Gulf Coast through Norfolk, Means didn’t have a winning record, going 35-41 with a 3.83 ERA.
He was called up last September only because the Orioles were running out of pitchers and pitched in only one game.
In spring training, Means faced huge competition to make the club, and his changeup impressed Hyde and pitching coach Doug Brocail.
“It was an unbelievable moment to be able to tell him,” Hyde said. “He’s had an All-Star first half and I am really happy for him. He’s going to really enjoy it. That’s an incredible few days. For a guy that never made a minor-league All-Star team. He told me today that he didn’t make all-conference in college. Barely made our club out of spring training, and he’s an All-Star. It’s really, really cool.”
Instead of having four days off with his fiancée, former top soccer goalkeeper Caroline Stanley, Means gets to go to Progressive Field.
“There’s some obviously great players going to the All-Star Game,” Means said. “I was joking around in the dugout that the minute I start introducing myself, they’re going to be like, ‘Who? Who are you?’ But, no it will be a lot of fun and a lot of opportunity to especially pick guys’ brains that have been pitching for a long time. I haven’t even looked at the roster. I haven’t even thought about it. There’ll be some guys that I get to talk to.”
It appeared the Orioles’ top contender to make the team was Mancini, who’s hitting .302 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs.
“I’m disappointed. We all think that Trey Mancini is an All-Star,” Hyde said. “I’m disappointed a lot. Yeah, I feel like he deserved to be on the team, and he’s done everything he could. If you ask around the league, there’s a lot of people who think he’s an All Star.”
One of them is Means. “I really think Trey’s an All-Star, too,” Means said. “He’s everything an All-Star can be, and I wish he could join me going. He was one of the first people to come up and give me a hug and he’s really, really happy for me, but I mean, that guy is exactly what an All-Star should be.”
Hyde had expected to give good news to Mancini but had to deliver the disappointing news instead.
“Yeah, that was a tough conversation,” Hyde said. “I just feel like he should be on the team. I hope this is motivation for our fans to get out and vote next year and get some of these Orioles in the game that deserve it.”
It’s the third consecutive year the Orioles have had just one representative. In 2017, second baseman Jonathan Schoop was chosen. Last year, Manny Machado was elected the American League’s starting shortstop and traded the day after the game.
From 2012-16, the Orioles had at least three players on the All-Star team.