SARASOTA, Florida—A year ago, John Means was one of the many pitchers in Orioles’ camp. This year, Means is already a fixture in the starting rotation.
Means did so well in 2019 that he finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting. He was 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA and averaged just eight hits per nine innings.
With the Orioles’ rotation so uncertain, Means is the top incumbent starter, but he doesn’t want to think things are going to be easier this season.
“A little bit different mentality,” Means said. “But I want to come in here and still think I’m competing, still thinking that I’ve got to go out there and do something. That’s usually how I want to go out there and pitch.”
There are 36 pitchers in camp. The Orioles would love for there to be another pitcher or two like Means, who show during spring training that they have the potential to succeed at the major league level, even if they weren’t top prospects.
“I think John Means is a special case,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“I think he’s a real mature guy, ultra-professional, and he’s dealt with a lot of things, and he’s had to earn everything that has come his way. Nothing was ever handed to John. I think that’s why there’s so much appreciation from him. That’s why he competes the way he does. He’s just always had to do that.”
Means, Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski are the only likely starters going into spring training.
“I think we have a lot of guys here that can go out there and perform, same thing with me last year,” Means said. “You just never know with guys that don’t have any [service] time. You don’t know what they did this offseason. You don’t know how they’re going to come out. I’m excited to get everybody out there and see what everybody’s got.”
Means, 26, was an 11th-round draft choice in 2014 and spent time at every level in the Orioles’ minor league system. He was never on any top prospect lists and was only called up in the last week of the 2018 season because the team needed another arm. He got into a game at Fenway Park and allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings.
“When I had my debut a couple of years ago, those seven days when I got called up for, I think that’s when you realize, and I think that was one of the bigger things for me, I got my debut out of the way,” Means said.
“Even if it was just one game at the end of the year because then you start to get swings and misses, it’s, ‘Oh, OK, this isn’t some fairytale land. I’ve got to pull something out of my butt to try and figure out how to pitch to these guys’ … You get that under your belt, and once you come back, it’s, “OK, I can do this.’”
Means worked out at a facility in St. Louis, about 250 miles away from his home in the Kansas City suburbs, determined to improve on 2019.
“That’s just how I’m wired,” Means said. “I don’t ever want to sit back and be comfortable and just think I’ve figured it all out. In this game it’ll humble you really, really quick. I’ve been around enough guys that have had [service] time and have had that experience. They’re like, ‘Once you think you’ve figured it out, you better keep working hard because you haven’t.’”
That’s a message Means will share with younger players who aren’t heralded prospects. If they pitch well, there’s a chance that they’ll break camp with the Orioles, too.
“I think I bring a unique kind of look at it because I wasn’t the guy that was in their thinking,” Means said. “Just to talk to these guys that have been in the minor leagues and the transition that it takes. I bring that to it, but I can probably dish off the leadership roles to the older guys.”
Hyde is hoping that Means can be a leader.
“There are different ways to lead,” Hyde said. “I think John Means’ story is super valuable to a lot of the guys we have in that room. I’m hoping that guys can learn from that and follow suit.”
Orioles adding Tommy Milone: The Orioles reached an agreement on a minor league contract with left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone.
Milone, who will be 33 on Sunday, was 50-47 with a 4.47 ERA in 174 games with Washington, Oakland, Minnesota, Milwaukee, the New York Mets and Seattle.
Last season, Milone was 4-10 with a 4.76 ERA in 23 games with the Mariners.
On September 3, 2011, when pitching for the Nationals, Milone hit a home run on the first pitch thrown to him.
Milone’s addition will give the Orioles 68 players in camp, 36 pitchers.
News of the agreement was first reported by MASNsports.com and confirmed by an industry source.
Severino sidelined: Catcher Pedro Severino has missed the first two days of workouts because of illness, Hyde said.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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