SARASOTA, Florida—For the second straight season, John Means will be the Orioles’ Opening Day starter. Manager Brandon Hyde informed Means on Thursday morning of the assignment against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on April 8th.
Means will be the first pitcher with consecutive Opening Day assignments since Chris Tillman from 2014-2016. He also was supposed to start the delayed opener in 2020 but couldn’t because of left arm fatigue.
“I think John has definitely earned it,” Hyde said. “He’s excited to make his second one. He said it should have been three. I’m excited to give him the ball. It’s a great accomplishment, and it’s something he’ll always remember.”
Last season, the 28-year-old left-hander was 6-9 with a 3.62 ERA, and he pitched the Orioles’ first solo no-hitter since 1969. Means was named to the American League All-Star team in 2019.
“What he’s done really the last three years, it was pretty obvious for us,” Hyde said. “John, for me, was one of the best pitchers in the game in the first half last year. I’m looking forward to him having another really good year, and he’s in a great spot right now, mentally, physically. Happy to give him the ball.”
Means suspected he was going to be the Opening Day starter.
“I think it’s always a little bit of a surprise, and you always get those butterflies when you’re told, so it’s still really, really cool,” Means said. “They’ve kind of being alluding to it. I’m lined up for it, but [Hyde] told me officially this morning.”
Means’ first Opening Day start was spectacular, when he threw seven shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out five in the Orioles’ 3-0 win over the Boston Red Sox on April 1, 2021 at Fenway Park.
“It’s an honor. It’s the ultimate honor to be the Opening Day starter for a major league baseball team,” Means said. “That’s how I take it. There’s truly nothing like it. I’m sure playoff games are like that, too … It’s really cool. It’s a type of adrenaline you never really feel throughout the season. You never know how the start of the season is going to go, you’re out there and do your best.”
Means has missed time because of arm fatigue, and Hyde hopes he can avoid that in 2022..
“I think maintaining health is big for him, just being consistent throughout a six-month season,” Hyde said. “John’s dealt with a lot. John broke with us a few years ago as a long man in our bullpen, and he’s earned his way into making two Opening Day starts. Credit to him for all the hard work, and he’s taken on a leadership role this spring, more so than ever before. It’s fun to watch a guy, even though he’s a veteran, turning into a veteran-type pitcher.”
Rotation and roster: Hyde said that Jordan Lyles and Tyler Wells, who is starting Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Florida, also would be in the rotation. Hyde hasn’t decided where in the rotation Lyles and Wells will slot. It’s likely Lyles will start the second game.
“He’s one of the five right now,” Hyde said about Wells. “He’s not going to be a traditional starter. We’re going to slot someone behind him.”
Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Chris Ellis, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Spenser Watkins and Bruce Zimmermann are also candidates for either starting or working in tandem with Wells and other starters.
It’s expected the Orioles will go with 15 pitchers and 13 position players on their 28-player roster to begin the season.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB