Ace Means 'ready to go' after IL stint

July 20th, 2021

The Orioles are getting their ace back. Baltimore reinstated left-hander from the injured list to start Tuesday against the Rays at Tropicana Field, returning him to the mound after he spent more than six weeks sidelined with left shoulder soreness.

“It hasn’t flared up at all, so I’m ready to go,” Means said on a Zoom call Monday. “I feel really good. I feel really comfortable right now in what I’m doing and what I need to accomplish, so I want to just keep doing what I did in the first half.”

Which is to say, pitch like one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball. Means went 4-2 with a 2.28 ERA in 12 starts, highlighted by his May 5 no-hitter in Seattle. He threw a career-high 113 pitches in that outing, then took extra days of rest between each of his next two starts. He ultimately made five post no-no starts, exiting his June 5 start against Cleveland in the first inning with shoulder pain.

Subsequent imaging showed no structural damage to Means’ left shoulder, only increased tightness around his deltoid. It was the same issue that forced Means to the IL for short stints in 2019 and ’20. He ended up missing a month and a half this time, during which Means built back up to around 75 pitches while making three rehab starts. He will be monitored closely Tuesday, manager Brandon Hyde said.

“I’m not going to push him in any sort of way these first couple of starts,” Hyde said. “We’ll monitor traffic, the pressure pitches if there’s a lot of people on base, etc. I might cut his outings short a little bit. I’m not going to push him.”

Consider it a necessary inconvenience for Means, who prides himself on pitching deep into games and taking the ball whenever called upon. He has also grown increasingly frustrated by the nagging nature of his left deltoid, chastising himself Monday for not keeping up with the regular maintenance it requires during what was otherwise a brilliant first few months of the season. Meanwhile, the rest of the Orioles' rotation struggled mightily in his absence.

“It’s something I need to take care of; I didn’t,” Means said. “I was cruising there for so long and didn’t want to change anything, wanted to stay out of the trainer’s room as much as possible. That was stupid on my part. Now I know I need to keep that up and keep that spot as loose as possible so the rest of my muscles aren’t doing too much.”

Means’ return comes less than two weeks before the July 30 Trade Deadline, which is sure to spark speculation about whether he might be dealt. He’d profile as one of the market’s top starters should the Orioles make him available, though it could take an overwhelming offer for them to actually part with their homegrown ace. Means is under team control through 2024 and is first-year arbitration eligible this winter. 

Either way, there will be more eyes on Means on Tuesday than usual. And he’ll be out to prove his shoulder issues are a thing of the past.

“I wanted to try to make as many starts as I possibly could,” Means said. “Hopefully, one of these years I can make every start. I don’t want that to be my stigma -- to get hurt halfway through. So [it's] just more frustrating that it had to happen, but no point in thinking about it now. I’m just moving forward.”

Prospect promotions
Another top Orioles prospect is moving on up. Baltimore on Monday promoted its No. 13 prospect, outfielder Hudson Haskin, from Low-A Delmarva to High-A Aberdeen amid a slew of promotions with the second half of the Minor League season in full swing.

The Orioles' second-round Draft pick in 2020, Haskin hit .276/.377/.415 with five home runs and 17 steals in his first 57 games of pro ball with the Shorebirds. He joins highly touted infield prospects Gunnar Henderson (O's No. 5, No. 90 overall per MLB Pipeline), Jordan Westburg (O's No. 6) and Adam Hall (O's No. 11) in Aberdeen’s infield.

Also promoted Monday:

• OF Robert Neustrom from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk
• OF Zach Watson from Aberdeen to Bowie
• RHP Ryan Conroy from Aberdeen to Bowie
• RHP Ignacio Feliz from Delmarva to Aberdeen
• RHP Zach Peek from Delmarva to Aberdeen
• RHP Ryan Watson from Delmarva to Aberdeen

From the trainer’s room
The injury bug has struck Orioles No. 8 prospect Yusniel Diaz again. The outfielder will miss his seventh straight game at Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday because of a turf toe, according to a source.

It is the latest in a string of lower-half injuries to befall Diaz since he joined the organization in the 2018 Manny Machado trade, including an upper quad strain that cost him more than a month earlier this season. The result has been something of a lost season for Diaz, now 24 and hitting .186/.257/.313 with three home runs in 27 games. He remains on Baltimore's 40-man roster.

Ticket promotion
The Orioles announced Monday the return of O’s Unlimited ticket passes for August and September, offering general admission tickets to every home game during those months for $40 per month. The tickets are valid for general admission locations that include standing-room-only access throughout Oriole Park, including the Flag Court, the Budweiser Roof Deck and the area behind the bullpens next to Orioles Legends Park. For more information, visit The offer includes a one-time $5 sign-up fee.