SARASOTA—It’s a strange spring for John Means. The Orioles’ best starter is in the Ed Smith Stadium Complex clubhouse each day to continue rehabilitation from his Tommy John surgery last April, but he isn’t expected to pitch until July.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Question: Is this the hardest part of the rehab for you?
John Means: “There’s been a few tough parts, but I think just lingering around spring training seeing everybody get excited and the competition knowing that I’m not competing right now for anything. It’s just competing for myself to get healthy and get back. It’s a little weird. It’s been a weird spring training. Obviously, there’s a lot to learn from that and, obviously, it creates that competition with myself.”
Q: How do you contrast looking at the talent in the room now as opposed to 2019 when you made the club out of spring training?
Means: “It’s night and day different. We would never really say it was a rebuild in spring training, but obviously it was, and now, it’s, ‘let’s go make the playoffs and win as many games as we can possibly win, and make it to the World Series.’ It’s just a completely different feeling of going into a season. There’s so much more momentum now than there used to be. That is a different feeling, obviously tough for me not being able to be a part of it in the beginning, but hoping to get as many wins on the back end as possible.”
Q: Is it going to be any stranger in a few weeks when the rest of the team leaves and you stay behind to continue the rehab?
Means: “This will be the first Opening Day that I’ll miss. It will be hard, but also at the same time, exciting because of what this team can do and what they can achieve. The personalities of these guys is so likable that it makes it so much easier for me because everybody gets along. There’s no hard feelings, egos. It’s like we’re one cohesive group.”
Q: You’ve never been caught by Adley Rutschman in a major league game. What do you think that’s going to be like?
Means: “I can’t wait. I can’t wait. Just watching him on TV and watching him out here, too, he completely changes the game when he’s on the field in all aspects … just to see him work. Catching is my favorite position and I love the art of it. He’s the quarterback. He’s got to be able to read the defense. He’s got to be able to play offense and defense. It’s a position that we stress because it’s so important and to be able to get back and throw to him, it’s pretty exciting.”
Q: You also haven’t had Gunnar Henderson behind you in the infield. What do you think of having him in back of you?
Means: “It’s going to be a lot of fun. This defense, everybody on defense is unbelievable, and … the kind of bats we’re having, too. We’re going to score some runs, for sure. Everything about it is so exciting.”
Q: Have you been doing a lot of talking to the younger pitchers, particularly Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall?
Means: “They come up to me and ask questions. I’ve been going about my work, and they’ve been going about their work. We talk pretty much every day just about this and that, the differences, what they bring to the table, what I’ve come to know over the years. They’re very good at what they do. It seems like they definitely have routines and plans that this organization has implemented in them since they were drafted. I don’t think they need a whole lot of help right now, but maybe once the season gets going.”
Q: Last year, you were often on MASN broadcasts. Did you like it?
Means: “I did. I did like it. It was a lot of fun. It scratched my itch to get back in the game and talk about baseball. I do enjoy it.”
Q: Would you like to do that when your playing career ends?
Means: “Maybe, maybe. I love this game. I love it so much, and I want to stay in it as long as I can. I think baseball’s doing a lot of good things for the game. I think we’re learning as we go. I think broadcasting has been pretty uplifting, and I do want to get involved in it.”
Q: What do you think of the pitch clock?
Means: “It won’t bother me. I just hope it doesn’t affect us in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning in a playoff game or anybody in the league, really. I would hate to see that. It’s something that hopefully we’re able to get used to, but it does need a few adjustments.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB