Means visits O's, offers updates: 'Still a big part of our team'

Baltimore's ace addresses media for first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery

May 21st, 2022

BALTIMORE -- Take a look at John Means, back in the Camden Yards clubhouse on Wednesday afternoon before the Orioles took on the Yankees, and there are a few noticeable differences. For starters, nearly the entirety of his left arm is bandaged and braced up following his Tommy John surgery exactly three weeks prior.

The other? Well, his patented mustache is back, most pronounced when the camera lights flipped on as he met the media at his locker for the first time since he underwent the operation that ended his 2022 season -- and will likely take away some of ’23.

“I was losing my mind,” Means said. “I gotta keep it fresh. Something, I don't know. Just felt like doing it one day, and here it is.”

The return of the ‘stache is indicative of the road back for Means. Though he’s been told he’s “way ahead of schedule” at this early juncture, he acknowledges it will be at least five or six months before he can think about the timeline to stepping on a mound in a game setting, let alone in a controlled environment.

So Means will be doing anything he can to keep his mind active, and “working out like crazy to try and keep that competitive edge.” Part of that recipe will include being around the team when he can, this week his first time doing so. He’ll join them on the trip to New York on Monday, then maybe pop his head in once a month during a future homestand.

It pains him that he can’t be part of this pitching staff, performing admirably through the first month and a half of the season without him -- and one that’s only expected to enhance with the arrival of top prospects before summer’s end. It’s part of the mental game Means is facing right now, arguably just as if not more arduous than the physical aspect.

“It's more difficult than I thought it was going to be,” Means said. “It's tough watching games and that sort of thing. You just want to be there. Good, bad -- whatever it is, you want to be there for your team and be a part of it. So that part's been hard, but I'm getting used to it.”

So call being in Baltimore this week uplifting -- not just for him, but also for those on the other end of his handshakes, fist bumps and one-armed hugs.

“It's great to see him in the clubhouse. I know he was itching to get back and being around the guys and they were looking forward to seeing him as well,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “ … He's still a big part of our team.”

Physically, after tearing 90 percent of his left UCL, Means is limited to lower-body conditioning and physical therapy exercises. That’s being conducted in Arlington, Texas, where he underwent the operation and where other pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John are congregated in a rehab facility.

It also includes some in-home cardio, which allows him to be around his son, McCoy, like he hasn’t been able to be in summers past.

“Yeah, that's been the best part, let me tell you,” Means smiled. “He's swinging off the tee now and he's running around constantly. I'm getting my workout in just chasing him around the living room and kitchen to try to keep his hands off the oven and microwave.”

Opportunities like those will be one of the saving graces Means can take away from this reality. Work ethic and competitive fire have been central to his career, from 11th-round Draft pick to fringe roster option to All-Star and ace. Baseball absent from his daily routine begets an empty heart.

Only Means of 2023, whenever he gets back into a game, will be able to more fully appreciate what the coming year looks like, how it matures him. But if Means of May ’22 has his way, there will be little left up to doubt about his capabilities when he’s back at Camden Yards to pitch once again.

“I'm looking forward to coming back,” Means said. “I'm looking forward to, you know, the grind of this.”