Answering a few of my own Orioles questions

Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias informed the media on the first day of spring training that John Means probably would begin the season on the injured list because the left-hander was a month behind the other starters. The Orioles delayed the start of his throwing program after elbow soreness denied him a roster spot in the Division Series. There weren’t enough days and innings in camp to get him ready and no reason to be reckless and rush him.

The circumstances made it a little awkward when lumping Means in articles with Kyle Bradish, who was diagnosed in January with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Bradish was injured. Means was behind. But they were going on the IL.

The Orioles set their Opening Day roster on Thursday and listed Means as having a left forearm strain. They had to put down something, of course, because it would have seemed strange for the IL list in the game notes to read:

Félix Bautista (right UCL injury)
Kyle Bradish (right UCL sprain)
John Means (behind other starters)

I wondered about the forearm, whether that was the cause of the elbow discomfort in October. Or was it forearm discomfort and we kept reporting it incorrectly.

Or, gasp, was this a new injury?

That seemed unlikely since Means stayed on his throwing progression in camp and already started his injury rehab assignment Sunday at Triple-A Norfolk. But I wondered anyway.

I can confirm that there’s nothing new with Means. This is a call-back to what happened in October. The forearm was a more accurate area of soreness. Forget the elbow.

* A player can be optioned a maximum of five times in a season before the team must expose him to waivers and risk a claim. It was a new rule under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2022.

The shuttle pass no longer is unlimited.

Reliever Nick Vespi made the Opening Day roster with Jacob Webb on paternity leave and lasted two days before being sent down to Triple-A Norfolk. I wondered whether special circumstances, including the bereavement list, were an exception to the rule.

They are not.

The Orioles used one of the five.

(At the risk of confusing everyone, a player uses only one option per season, no matter how many times he's sent down. But he can't be sent down more than five times. Got it?)

* Vespi was a popular assumption among media to replace Cionel Pérez after the lefty exited Saturday’s game with discomfort in his right oblique.

Pérez went on the injured list with a strain. Vespi could have turned around and headed back to Baltimore. It made sense.

I wondered why the Orioles chose right-hander Jonathan Heasley. Maybe they checked the rosters of their upcoming opponents and decided that two left-handers in the bullpen were an ample supply. That was my theory.

I was partially right.

To recall Vespi would have led to a second of those five options because he wasn’t likely to stay for the rest of the season. The Orioles would have burned two pretty fast and they want to spread them out.

Also, yes, Heasley made sense because he could provide length and some of the upcoming matchups called for a right-hander. These were big considerations.

* Terrin Vavra remains in Sarasota while rehabbing from off-season shoulder surgery. This is the same player who broke camp with the Orioles last spring.

What a difference a year makes, right?

I wondered whether he's been cleared to play in games.

Vavra's projected to return sometime in the middle of May, at the earliest.

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