Means has TJ surgery; rehab to start 'immediately'

April 27th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Orioles ace John Means underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, and he will be sidelined for the rest of 2022 and part of the '23 season, team executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said. The surgery -- performed by Dr. Keith Meister in Dallas -- was described as “successful” by Elias.

“If his history and work ethic are any guide, he’ll be back as good as ever, if not better than ever,” Elias said. “While not great, it's definitely not the worst possible timing. So, we're very optimistic that we’ll get him back, hopefully, in the first half of 2023.” 

Elias said Means would begin the rehab process “immediately” under the supervision of the Orioles' medical staff, consulting first with team doctors in Baltimore as early as this weekend. The plan is for Means to then divide his rehab between his home in the Dallas area and the club’s training facility in Sarasota, Fla. Tommy John surgery typically demands a rehab period of 12-18 months.

Means revealed he needed the operation via Twitter last weekend, after a second opinion confirmed the initial recommendation. The left-hander first complained of left forearm pain during his second start of the season on April 13 against Milwaukee. Subsequent imaging revealed a UCL tear in his left elbow, requiring reconstructive surgery.

“I’m obviously disappointed, but more motivated than ever,” Means said in his Twitter statement. “In the meantime, I’m looking forward to watching what the team can do this year. I’ll be back. Go O’s.”

Means emerged as Baltimore’s unquestioned ace since blossoming into an All-Star in 2019, going 20-24 with a 3.72 ERA (124 ERA+) in 69 games (65 starts) over the last three-plus years. He authored the franchise’s first solo no-hitter in 52 years last June against Seattle, coming a dropped third strike shy of a perfect game. A former 11th-round Draft pick, Means is scheduled to reach free agency after the 2024 season. He had no history of elbow problems before the UCL tear, but he did struggle with chronic left shoulder issues the past few years.

“It’s obviously a blow,” manager Brandon Hyde said last weekend, after Means revealed he needed surgery. “Injuries happen, but I feel bad for John -- not only what he brings on the field, on the mound, but the leadership he brings to our clubhouse. It’s going to be tough without him. But we have to have guys step up and take different roles.”

Means' absence leaves an enormous vacancy atop the Orioles' rotation, which has defied expectations in the early going but remains incomplete and extremely inexperienced. Baltimore initially tabbed right-hander Chris Ellis to fill Means’ spot, only to watch Ellis go down with right shoulder inflammation on Sunday against the Angels. On Tuesday, Ellis joined Means and right-hander Dean Kremer (left oblique strain) on the injured list. Ellis' timeline is unclear, while Kremer will be out until at least mid-May.

The O's rotation currently consists of veteran righty Jordan Lyles, rookie right-hander Tyler Wells, lefty Bruce Zimmermann and swingman Spenser Watkins. They need another starter for Friday against the Red Sox.

“[Means] has been incredible for us the last few years, so it’s a big loss,” Trey Mancini said. “But our staff’s been doing a really, really good job so far of going out there, throwing strikes. That’s the biggest difference from my perspective this year, is these guys are attacking the zone, and they’re pitching with confidence.”

Elias would not commit to Ellis’ replacement on Wednesday, but candidates include No. 10 prospect Kyle Bradish and No. 18 prospect Kevin Smith, a lefty. Bradish (2-0, 1.20 ERA in three starts), Smith (1.23 ERA, 14 2/3 innings) and No. 2 prospect Grayson Rodriguez are all at Triple-A Norfolk. Veteran right-hander Matt Harvey, who returned to the organization on a Minor League deal April 8, is still ramping up in Sarasota, so he's not a candidate.

The club pushed back Bradish’s scheduled start Wednesday to Friday to line up with the O's schedule, hinting at the right-hander’s potential promotion.

“I think anybody at Triple-A who is pitching as well as Kyle is has put themselves in good contention for joining this rotation,” Elias said. “Once we get through these next couple of games, we'll take a look at who's rested and see what we do with that fifth rotation spot going forward. But certainly, he and other people have put themselves on the radar for helping the staff this year.”