Earning trust, Means set for 1st MLB start

Lefty to pitch Tuesday vs. A's as O's give Straily relief work at first

April 7th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- For someone who didn’t think they’d even make the team, John Means is sure earning some trust from the Orioles.

Instead of throwing newly acquired into the rotation immediately, Baltimore will get Straily into game action with some relief work and plug a hole in its rotation at least one more time through. To fill it, the O's will call on Means, manager Brandon Hyde announced on Sunday, setting the left-hander’s first Major League start for Tuesday against the A’s at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Means, who admitted recently “at the beginning of camp, I thought I’d be one of the first guys sent to Minor League camp,” instead made the Opening Day roster and has been stellar in the early going. His scoreless inning of relief against the Yankees on Saturday lowered his ERA to 1.59 over three appearances, the first a 3 1/3-inning savior of a showing last weekend in the Bronx.

The 25-year-old Means earned his first big league win -- and beer shower -- with that performance. In all, he has struck out nine batters across 5 2/3 innings while sporting increased fastball velocity and a new swing-and-miss changeup.

“I’m going to let Johnny pitch and I’ll be smart about it,” Hyde said. “I’m looking forward to watching his start and take him as far as he can go. Obviously, he’s been outstanding. Pitch a variety of roles for you. So we’re going to give him a start on Tuesday and see how it goes.”

As for Straily, he came on in relief for his club debut in Sunday's 15-3 loss and allowed five runs in 1 1/3 innings. The long-term plan is still for him to eventually assume the No. 5 starter spot.

“I’m going to give Straily some outings before we slide him into the rotation,” Hyde said. “Still trying to kind of figure that out as we go.”

Kid Opening Day
The Orioles welcomed the first of what’ll be a season’s worth of special guests on Sunday, recognizing Halethorpe, Md., native Tyler Stallings as their first Birdland Community Hero of the year. Recently featured on NBC’s "Little Big Shots," Stallings, 7, is the CEO of Kid Time Enterprises, which specializes in providing hygiene products and other necessary items to assist homeless veterans. Stallings said family ties were the inspiration for getting involved to help veterans, as several of his uncles and cousins have served in the military.

“Anybody can help,” Stallings said. “You don’t have to have a lot of money.”

Honoring Stallings ran consistent with the overarching vibe at Oriole Park on Sunday, officially the fifth annual Kids Opening Day at the ballpark. Young fans were invited to celebrate the 40th birthday of the Oriole Bird mascot and enjoy a variety of youth-centric initiatives, many of which will be available all season long at Camden Yards. The Kids’ Corner near Gate C serves a variety of specially sized and priced concession items especially for children, including kids-sized hot dogs and sodas for $1.50 each.

The Orioles also plan to make a $2,500 donation to the Maryland Center for Veteran Education and Training in support of the Birdland Community Heroes program, which will honor a local difference maker during every weekend game at Oriole Park this season.

Over parts of the last four seasons with the Nationals, garnered a reputation as one of the most aggressive backstops behind the plate, throwing out 37 percent of attempted basestealers, a well-above league-average rate. That notoriety has apparently carried over to the American League, where Severino has now caught three games as a member of the Orioles.

So infamous among baserunners is Severino, that Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez looked for assurance while on third base during the sixth inning of Saturday’s 6-4 O's loss. The following story was retold on Sunday morning: With the bases loaded and Sanchez representing the go-ahead run, he made Orioles third baseman Hanser Alberto promise Severino wouldn’t throw behind him on Saturday. Alberto coyly obliged, telling Sanchez he had nothing to worry about, given the high-stakes situation. Why risk throwing the ball into left field, and breaking the inning open?

But really, it was all an act. Alberto and Severino had planned to throw behind Sanchez on the next play regardless. They did, with Severino picking Sanchez off to help Paul Fry escape the jam unscathed. Chalk it up to execution and trickery for Severino, who sports one of the strongest arms in the Majors. His average arm strength of 84.3 mph on competitive throws ranked 12th among MLB catchers in 2018, according to Statcast.

The Orioles are the only team in the Majors to not allow a stolen base yet this season.

“Our guys are catching fantastic,” Hyde said. “You saw the intensity Severino caught with last night, the passion he has for helping out the pitcher … our guys are playing free, they’re playing with energy."