BALTIMORE -- It appears John Means has avoided the worst, even if he could not avoid the injured list.
Means and the Orioles both breathed a sigh of relief Sunday when an MRI exam on Means’ left shoulder revealed no structural damage, according to manager Brandon Hyde. Means will nonetheless miss seven to 10 days before he is reevaluated, Hyde said. Baltimore’s ace was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday, one day after he exited Saturday’s 10-4 loss to the Indians with shoulder fatigue after recording two outs.
“It’s pretty much a sore shoulder,” Hyde said. “It’s very, very similar to what he had in 2019.”
The issue is considered minor, but it is a recurring one for Means, who has a mild but notable history of shoulder woes.
This is his fourth injured list stint since 2019, having been shut down twice that season and forced to miss his '20 Opening Day assignment due to shoulder fatigue. Means returned from that incident after just one week, throwing harder than ever. This year, he has emerged as one of the premier pitchers in the American League, going 4-2 with a league-best 2.28 ERA and 0.831 WHIP, plus a May 5 no-hitter against the Mariners.
After throwing a career-high 113 pitches in that outing, Means was given an extra day of rest before his next start and three extra days before his start after that, with an eye toward avoiding wear-and-tear issues. This one bubbled up anyway, with Means describing feeling a consistent “yank” in his left deltoid before and during his shortened start Saturday. There is a chance he will miss just one start, but it is remote. The best-case scenario for the Orioles likely results in Means returning sometime before the end of June.
“We’re going to side with caution,” Hyde said. “I don’t have long-term concern … but I’m waiting to hear what the medical team says. I would love to keep [Means] healthy.”
“This is something [I’ve] dealt with for years now,” Means said Saturday. “I’ve been trying to attack it this year because I’ve known that it’s nothing serious. It’s more annoying than anything.”
In the meantime, his absence leaves a giant hole atop the Orioles’ rotation, one they are yet to decide how to fill. They have time: Due to two off-days this week, the O’s don’t need a fifth starter until June 15 in Cleveland. No. 9 prospect Zac Lowther or Dean Kremer appear the likeliest candidates to make that start, unless Baltimore uses an opener or opts for a bullpen game.
Ryan Mountcastle homered for the third consecutive game Saturday, continuing to reward the Orioles for letting him work through his early season struggles at the big league level. He also continued to show why they decided to: his elite ability to impact the baseball when he’s going right.
For evidence, consider some of Mountcastle’s recent underlying metrics:
• His sixth-inning solo homer off Aaron Civale on Saturday traveled a projected 447 feet per Statcast, the farthest of his career and the longest by an Oriole this season.
• Earlier, Mountcastle rapped a 114.6-mph double off Civale, easily the hardest-hit ball by an Oriole in 2021. It was also the second-hardest-hit ball by an Oriole since the start of '19, registering only a few ticks below Renato Nunez’s 114.8-mph double on June 22, 2019, against the Mariners.