Means unlikely to be part of Orioles' Opening Day rotation

Club's 'rough draft' for left-hander includes probable April return

February 16th, 2024

SARASOTA, Fla. -- On Thursday, manager Brandon Hyde said it was a “little too early” in Spring Training to tell if could be part of the Orioles’ Opening Day rotation. But the skipper assumes the group of five starters will not include the 30-year-old left-hander, who began his offseason throwing program a month after the other pitchers who have reported to camp.

A day later, Means expressed a similar sentiment regarding his rotation availability to start the 2024 season.

“It’s probably unlikely,” Means said in the O’s spring clubhouse Friday morning.

It’s not exactly how Means envisioned this spring would go once he returned from Tommy John surgery to make four starts for Baltimore last September. However, he also thought he’d get to make his postseason debut. Instead, his left elbow flared up, causing him to miss the American League Division Series in October.

The Orioles wanted to be cautious with Means, who was shut down and spent the early part of the offseason resting and icing his elbow. Because Means is now behind, Hyde said the “rough draft” of the club’s plans for the southpaw feature a probable return to the rotation sometime in April.

Means, a 2019 All-Star, has thrown only 31 2/3 big league innings over the past two seasons. Last year, he accumulated 45 1/3 frames between his four MLB starts (during which he had a 2.66 ERA) and his six Minor League rehab appearances.

There’s not a target number for how many innings Baltimore could get this year from Means, who threw 146 2/3 in 2021 and a career-high 155 in ‘19.

“We’ll get there and then watch him and monitor closely throughout the season,” Hyde said.

Means said he completed his first bullpen session around Jan. 31. He still worked out prior to that, but his activities did not include throwing. His first ‘pen work of the spring came Friday morning at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, where he took a bullpen mound and threw to catcher Adley Rutschman.

Although Means will likely need time after Spring Training to complete his build-up, he’s still optimistic about his 2024 season. He’s also confident his fellow starters will carry the O’s to early-season success in the absence of both him and right-hander , who will open the year on the injured list due to a right UCL sprain.

“At this point, I kind of understand to follow the process and do the best I can every day and try to be as prepared as I can,” Means said. “We have a ton of depth. Everybody in this clubhouse trusts each other, and we know anybody we throw out there is going to be pretty dang good.”

Bradish resumes throwing, confident he’ll pitch in 2024
A day after general manager Mike Elias announced Bradish will be heading to the IL, the 27-year-old right-hander played catch on flat ground on Friday morning in Sarasota. It was the first time he had thrown since spraining his right UCL in January.

Bradish, who finished fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting last season, is disappointed he can’t immediately carry over the positive momentum from his stellar 2023 campaign to the start of ‘24. But he’s confident he’ll be a factor in Baltimore’s rotation during the upcoming season.

“Obviously, I was bummed,” said Bradish, who got a platelet-rich plasma injection after sustaining the injury. “Based off the year we had last year, and then coming into this year feeling really confident, it was a little bit of a setback. But like I said, I feel confident that I will be able to pitch and help this team out this year.”

Worth noting
• Position players aren’t required to report to Orioles camp until Monday, a day before the first full-squad workout. But most of them are already in Sarasota and have been working out and taking batting practice on the backfields this week.

“I feel like we’ve already started full squad a little bit -- so many guys here,” Hyde said. “If you came here a week ago, I think we had almost half our camp here already. Our guys, they seem excited to get this thing going.”

, a non-roster invitee to big league camp, has not yet reported due to a visa issue. The 29-year-old left-hander is a former outfielder who has been converted to a pitcher.