Means unsure for OD; where may O's turn?

July 21st, 2020

In the several days since experiencing arm fatigue last week, has yet to throw. He received treatment both Sunday and Monday from the Orioles’ training staff at Camden Yards, according to manager Brandon Hyde, but he did not progress enough to play catch as originally hoped.

It is a situation that, now four days out from Means’ scheduled Opening Day start against the Red Sox, complicates his status for that assignment. The Orioles remain hopeful their All-Star lefty can be available for the start, though they are actively brainstorming contingency plans in the event that is not the case.

“We’re definitely going to take a conservative route with John, because he means so much to us, and his future,” Hyde said. “We are still weighing our options there, and it’s a little unclear if John will be able to start on Opening Day.”

Twice in a 12-minute Zoom session with reporters did Hyde use the word “conservative” when describing the team’s approach for Means, who broke out last season with a 12-11 record and 3.60 ERA. Hyde named left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone, as well as righty Thomas Eshelman -- who filled in quite nicely for Means in Sunday’s exhibition -- as possible candidates to replace him Friday if necessary.

“We’re trying to get ahead of this a little bit and not push him into a place where we’re risking losing time with him down the road this season,” Hyde said. “It’s obviously disappointing that he’s in this position right now, because we would all love to see him make that start.”

At this point, the Orioles simply don’t know if that’ll end up happening. Reading between the lines, they are preparing for it not to. Asked what hurdles Means would need to clear for Opening Day, Hyde said it would require the lefty to “start feeling better, play catch and feel nothing,” within the next couple days. That seems unlikely with Means experiencing too much discomfort to throw lightly as of Monday afternoon.

Means was nearly fully stretched out upon arriving at camp, having ramped up to five innings and 75 pitches on his own at his Kansas home. Tuesday will mark a full week since Means last pitched, when he logged four-plus innings of intrasquad action. He has not been made available to the media since being scratched from Sunday’s exhibition.

"It’s so disappointing, because Opening Day is a big deal,” Hyde said. “It’s a big deal to all of us. I have a lot of sensitivity to that -- it would be him potentially making his first Opening Day start. For that to be in question, we know he’s disappointed. But we’re looking big picture with him.”

If Means misses the outing, it would be the second consecutive Opening Day assignment an Orioles starter will have missed due to a last-minute injury. Alex Cobb couldn't fulfill his assignment in 2019 due to a groin strain suffered in the final week of Spring Training; the Orioles are currently keeping him lined up as their No. 2 starter rather than making him a candidate to replace Means. The veteran righty got the ball for Monday’s exhibition against the Nationals, and he is in line to take the ball for the season’s second game on Saturday in Boston.

From the trainer’s room
• Hyde revealed that Means isn’t the only promising young pitcher experiencing arm fatigue; the Orioles are holding back right-handed reliever for the same reason. The club’s No. 12 prospect has a long injury history, missing a lot of time from 2015-18 due to arm trouble before debuting in '19. He is in line for a back-end bullpen job in '20. Hyde called Harvey day to day.

was not in the lineup Monday, a day after being plunked in the left knee by a pitch, though concern level for the rookie center fielder is low. Had Monday been a regular-season game, Hays would’ve started, Hyde said.

• The Orioles are also mildly concerned with after the backup catcher was hit by a pitch in the right triceps during a live batting practice session this week. Hyde said Sisco would only be out a couple of days, but he’s yet to appear in exhibition play.

Smitty’s situation
The Orioles officially placed on the COVID-19 injured list Monday due to the outfielder’s late arrival to camp. Smith has been working out at Oriole Park since Friday, after missing the first two weeks of camp due to a positive COVID-19 test. He took live batting practice against righty Hector Velázquez before the O’s exhibition game against the Nats.

Per the rules of the new COVID-19 IL, the Orioles can activate Smith at any time. Hyde said he remains a candidate to make the Opening Day roster.

Up next
Watch live on MLB.TV as the Orioles complete their exhibition slate by traveling south into the Beltway to meet the Nationals for a 6:05 p.m. ET tilt at Nationals Park on Tuesday. The O's will hand the ball to right-hander , who is competing for a back-end rotation job, or potentially a swingman role. The Nationals are countering with lefty Patrick Corbin, and Hays is expected to be back in the lineup for Baltimore after he was hit by a pitch in the knee in Sunday's exhibition.