Memorable moments during Means' time with the Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Memorable moments during Means’ time with the Orioles

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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Monday’s announcement that John Means had his second Tommy John surgery probably indicated that the 31-year-old left-hander’s time with the Orioles was over, and that’s unfortunate.

Means was the only pitcher on the staff who nearly saw the rebuild through, but sadly he may only see its completion as a spectator.

His career record with the team doesn’t tell the entire story. It doesn’t even come close.

In parts of seven seasons, Means was 23-26 with a 3.68 earned-run average. In 2018, he was called to the majors in the last week of the season because the team had run out of pitchers, and he appeared in only one game.

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Over that winter, he was convinced that he’d be the next player cut from the 40-man roster, but in 2019, he was the team’s representative to the All-Star Game.

Means made the 2019 Orioles, a bunch that lost 108 games, because there were few other alternatives, and after three effective relief outings at the start of the season, manager Brandon Hyde put him in the starting rotation. Despite his first Tommy John surgery in April 2022, Means was always his starter.

There were a number of injuries in his Orioles career. A tired arm prevented him from being the Opening Day pitcher in Boston in the delayed start to the 2020 season. In 2021, he missed six weeks with a shoulder injury.

In 2019, he was 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA, and the Orioles hoped he could be the starter their younger pitchers could learn from. On May 5th, 2021, Means threw the team’s first solo no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969.

That 2021 season stat line wasn’t that impressive. He was 6-9 with a 3.62 ERA, but there were easily a half-dozen starts he could have won had the team that lost 110 games provided some offense.

Still, he never complained. Nor did he complain about being saddled with substandard catchers. Pedro Severino couldn’t handle a strikeout in the no-hitter, the only baserunner to reach base. If not for that, Means would have had a perfect game; there have been only 24 in major league history.

Means’ surgery took place less than a month before catcher Adley Rutschman came to the big leagues and the Orioles’ resurgence began. He returned for the end of the 2023 season, starting four times before a sore elbow prevented him from his first postseason start in the Division Series against Texas.

The Orioles wanted to be cautious with him this year and delayed the start of his season by a month. In his fourth start, Means left the game in St. Louis after three innings.

It wasn’t a surprise a week ago when executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said that Means and Tyler Wells would have season-ending elbow surgery.

Means will miss the rest of this season, and possibly 2025, too. By the time he’s ready to pitch again, it could be August or September, a hard time to find a job on a major league pitching staff.

He’ll also miss out on a chance to test free agency this fall as a healthy pitcher. It’s possible that the Orioles could re-sign him, but he may have to move on if he’s able to pitch again.

Tommy John surgery isn’t a sure thing. A second Tommy John surgery is even more of a risk, yet two noted starters, the Rangers’ Nathan Eovaldi and the Cubs’ Jameson Taillon have returned from two.

At his best, Means showed courage and compassion. In 2020, he lost his father, Alan, to pancreatic cancer at age 57. Less than a year later, Means was faced with his first Tommy John, and he didn’t feel sorry for himself.

The Orioles appear to have sufficient depth to make another postseason run this season, even without Means and Wells. Corbin Burnes, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer and Cole Irvin are accomplished starters, and Elias will likely add to that rotation before next month’s trade deadline.

It would have been good to see Means as part of that staff, participating in an Orioles postseason after pitching for the bad teams and dealing with the injuries.

It’s not to be, and if this is the end of Means in Baltimore, we can only hope he’ll find health, happiness and professional success elsewhere.

Call for questions: Most weekdays, I’ll answer Orioles questions. Please send them to: [email protected].

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