SARASOTA, Florida—Circumstances are different for John Means in 2020. A year ago, Means wasn’t even certain that he’d find a place on the 40-man roster, let alone in the starting rotation.
However, he eaned a roster spot and pitched well enough to be the Orioles’ only selection for the All-Star Game. The left-hander finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Means should be the Orioles’ Opening Day starter on March 26. If Means starts every five days for the rest of the spring, he’ll be in line to face the New York Yankees.
His first Grapefruit League start was marred when Dwight Smith Jr. misplayed Brandon Lowe’s fly ball for a triple that led to two runs in the Orioles’ 15-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays before 3,769 at Ed Smith Stadium on Tuesday.
Means struck out three batters against a representative Rays lineup.
“In spring training, you’re not too worried about results, you’re really worried about how you feel,” Means said. “How the ball’s coming out, how the hitters are reacting. I honestly felt good. The fastball was there, the changeup was there, the curveball was there. I definitely felt better than the two runs in.”
Means didn’t want to make excuses but noted that weather was an issue.
“The winds are howling,” Means said.
Manager Brandon Hyde was impressed.
“That was midseason form,” Hyde said. “I loved the breaking ball today. Fastball had really good life. Really good changeups, good breaking balls.”
Means was 12-11 with a 3.60 earned run average in 2019. He was pleased but not satisfied.
“Just be more consistent,” Means said. “I gave up a home run every game for a stretch. Be consistent, attack hitters. Consistency comes with your time in the game.
“This year, I’m trying to ease a little further back into it,” Means said. “I’m kind of easing into starting, trying to feel pitches out. Last year, I was trying to make a statement.”
Means recognizes his rookie year is history.
“I always pitched as if my back is against the wall,” Means said. “I’m going to keep that mentality probably my entire career.”
Iglesias settles in: Shortstop José Iglesias is the biggest free agent Orioles general manager Mike Elias has signed.
Iglesias signed a one-year contract for $2.5 million with a $3.5 million option for 2021.
During a conference call after his signing on January 7, Elias praised his defense, and emphasized that he wanted a strong defensive shortstop to play behind the young pitchers.
Iglesias thinks that the Orioles are better than many believe.
“It’s a process that the organization is going through,” Iglesias said. “I don’t want to say that we’re not ready to win because I don’t believe that. I believe we have good young talent that can compete and, hopefully, we’re going to do our best every day to make something happen.”
Iglesias signed with the Orioles because of the opportunity to play regularly, something that wasn’t available in many other places. He also found the second year option attractive.
“It’s a more comfortable situation for me,” Iglesias said. “Another year with the guys. We have a great young team that is going to continue to develop and be ready to win soon.”
After the 2018 season, Iglesias was a free agent and found his options unappealing. He ended up with Cincinnati, on a minor league contract, that turned into a $2.5 million deal.
Iglesias, who had played five seasons for Detroit, had a .288 average with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs for the Reds.
“I don’t want to say better,” Iglesias said of his offseason. “It was just different. I got the opportunity to come here on a big league deal. Last year was a minor league deal.
“It was disgusting. I get to come here and lead by example and just be who I am, the guy who’s going to play every day, that’s going to lead by example and do the best that I can for this organization.”
Davis’ perfect spring: For a second straight game, first baseman Chris Davis didn’t make an out. He walked in the first and hit an opposite-field home run in the fourth, which was the Orioles’ first hit.
“I love it when he hits it over the fence the other way,” Hyde said. “Two good swings before the home run, two aggressive swings. We talked about that more than the home run.
“Just his passes on the ball, there’s something behind it. He’s on time, maybe a hair late, but he caught up to the heater, and he’s so strong, if he hits the barrel of the baseball, it’s going to go a long ways.”
In five plate appearances this spring, Davis has a home run, a single and three walks.