Means (shoulder) begins throwing program

June 15th, 2021

Sidelined since June 6 with a left shoulder strain, is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Wednesday. But it will be a little longer before the Orioles get their ace back.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Means began a throwing progression Tuesday, playing catch at the club’s Sarasota, Fla., complex for the first time since leaving his May 5 start with shoulder fatigue. Means was shut down for a week after an MRI revealed no structural damage, only similar wear and tear that Means has routinely felt in the shoulder during his career. This is his fourth IL stint in three seasons due to the issue.

“He’s starting to work his way back,” Hyde said.

It’s an important but only initial recovery step for Means, who will now certainly miss more than two starts due to the issue. Next Means must advance to throwing off a mound and complete multiple innings in bullpen sessions without hiccup. He could also potentially require a rehab start before rejoining the Orioles’ rotation; if all goes well, it's not unreasonable to expect Means back in the Majors by the end of the month.

The club has not made Means available this week to discuss his progress.

But Means downplayed the injury as minor almost immediately after it occurred, comparing it to similar strains that resulted in short IL stints in 2019 (two weeks) and '20 (one week). This one will require more time in part because the Orioles are being extra cautious after Means pitched to a 2.28 ERA across his first 12 starts this season. He threw a career-high 113 pitches in his May 5 no-hitter; exactly one month later, his shoulder began barking.

The fallout has been sizable for the Orioles' rotation, which has pitched to a 6.34 ERA (23 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings) entering Tuesday in seven games without Means, five of them loses. Baltimore recalled right-hander Dean Kremer from Triple-A Norfolk to start in Means’ place Monday; he appears in line for at least one more start after holding the Indians to four runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Minor League trade

The Orioles traded from their organizational catching depth Tuesday, acquiring Minor League outfielder José Berroa from the Pirates in exchange for catcher Taylor Davis. Davis, 31, was part of a catching surplus at Triple-A Norfolk with Chance Sisco, Brett Cumberland and Nick Ciuffo coming off the injured list.

Berroa, 19, was originally signed as part of the Pirates' 2018-19 international free-agent class. He appeared in 56 combined games for Pittsburgh’s Dominican Summer League affiliates in 2019, hitting .254 with zero home runs and 11 stolen bases.

Minor League outfielder released

The Orioles on Tuesday released Minor League outfielder JC Encarnacion, the Norfolk Tides announced on Twitter. Encarnacion, 23, was one of four players acquired from the Braves in the Kevin Gausman/Darren O’Day trade in 2018, along with Cumberland, Bruce Zimmermann and right-hander Evan Phillips. Only Zimmermann is currently in the Majors.