Kjerstad has contract selected, Mountcastle stays on active roster

Kjerstad has contract selected, Mountcastle stays on active roster

The Orioles must proceed through their important four-game series and the ensuing days without their closer and, for now, their starting first baseman. But how long?

Félix Bautista is on the injured list with a slight tear of his ulnar collateral ligament – he’s playing catch on flat ground while the team determines whether he can pitch again this year - but Ryan Mountcastle didn’t join him today.

Mountcastle injured his left shoulder last night and underwent an MRI, but outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the second-overall pick in the 2022 draft and one of the top prospects in baseball, had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk and Ryan McKenna was optioned. Mountcastle stays on the active roster and perhaps retains his day-to-day status.

Infielder Terrin Vavra was recalled from Norfolk and transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room for Kjerstad on the 40-man roster. Vavra has a shoulder strain and receives his major league salary and service time.

Also, reliever Bryan Baker was recalled from Norfolk and left-hander Nick Vespi was optioned for a fifth time. Vespi can’t be optioned again without passing through waivers.

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Tussle for division title intensifies with Rays in town

Kyle Bradish

Now, it gets real.

Or real important. And really hard.

The other games counted, of course, but the Orioles are set to play four against the Rays beginning tonight at Camden Yards. The team that’s two behind them in the division race. The team with the same lengthy stubborn streak, refusing to let injuries and other impactful issues break its spirit and damage postseason aspirations.

The Orioles returned to their clubhouse last night with their magic number at four to clinch the first playoff birth since 2016. That’s the immediate task, and it could be done in a few days.

An Orioles win reduces the number by one. And so on. That’s the simplest math in an otherwise complicated equation, which induces headaches when also factoring in other teams like the Rangers and Mariners.

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Mountcastle leaves game with left shoulder discomfort (O's lose 1-0)

mountcastle gray

Ryan Mountcastle drew a painful walk tonight in the bottom of the first inning.

Losing him could severely hurt the Orioles.

Mountcastle fouled off a sinker from Cardinals' starter Drew Rom to leave the count 2-2, took two pitches out of the strike zone and headed to first base. He was grimacing and rotating his left arm as if experiencing shoulder discomfort.

Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel and manager Brandon Hyde checked on Mountcastle, who swung the arm back and forth and stayed in the game. But the pain was lingering.

He paced after every pitch in the top of the second, rubbed the shoulder, rotated his arm a few more times and at least twice removed the mitt. He followed Ebel down the dugout tunnel, but returned to the field in the top of the third.

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Orioles notes on bullpen decision, Vespi's shuttling, Rutschman as DH, facing Rom and upcoming Rays series

vespi throws white

The Orioles didn’t send down left-hander Cole Irvin again today based on poor evaluations of his performance. Circumstances beyond his control removed him from the active roster and the clubhouse.

Irvin was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, with Nick Vespi recalled again.

“Because of the six-man rotation right now, as well as, the last four or five starts have been short, so our bullpen has taken a heavy load, that whole Boston series and the first game here against St. Louis,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We just felt like we needed a bullpen arm.”

Irvin has been optioned three times. He could return again but must stay in the minors for a minimum of 15 days unless replacing an injured player.

“We’ll see,” Hyde said.

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Orioles and Cardinals lineups for series finale

Gibson white

Jordan Westburg stays in the Orioles lineup tonight and is batting fifth against left-hander Drew Rom.

James McCann is catching again, with Adley Rutschman serving as designated hitter. Gunnar Henderson is playing third base and Jorge Mateo is the shortstop.

Aaron Hicks is in center field, with Cedric Mullins on the bench.

For the Orioles
Adley Rutschman DH
Ryan Mountcastle 1B
Anthony Santander RF
Austin Hays LF
Jordan Westburg 2B
Gunnar Henderson 3B
Aaron Hicks CF
James McCann C
Jorge Mateo SS

Kyle Gibson RHP

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Orioles option Irvin and recall Vespi

Vespi white

Nick Vespi is back in the majors.

The Orioles recalled Vespi this morning from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned Cole Irvin in a swap of left-handed relievers.

Irvin was removed from the rotation to create a spot for John Means. He tossed two scoreless innings last night and threw 32 pitches, pushing back his availability with the second-place Rays coming to town Thursday to begin a crucial four-game series.

This is Irvin’s third time being optioned this season. Vespi is a real pro.

The Orioles optioned Vespi for a fourth time on Aug. 24. He can be sent down one more time without the Orioles having to expose him to waivers.

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Teammates reflect on Means' injury and having him back on the mound

John Means vs. STL

The morning of April 13, 2022, began in normal fashion, with a phone call to wish my mother a Happy Birthday and probably a few complaints about anything to anyone within earshot. Staying on brand. The Orioles were hosting the Brewers after losing four of their first five games. The announced crowd was 12,704.

John Means was making his second start, with none of us knowing it would be his last until Sept. 12, 2023 – when I turned 60 years old.

What is it about birthdays in my family?

Anthony Bemboom caught Means, with starter Robinson Chirinos entering late after Ryan McKenna pinch-ran. Adley Rutschman wouldn’t arrive for a month.

Rougned Odor played second base and Kelvin Gutiérrez pinch-hit for him. Gunnar Henderson wouldn’t debut until Aug. 31. Jordan Westburg didn’t play his first major league game until June 26, 2023.

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Means allows two solo homers in return and Orioles lose 5-2 (updated)


John Means came out of the dugout first tonight, the honor bestowed upon the starter, the one-time ace. The September addition who hadn’t pitched since April 13, 2022.

Means received a loud ovation during introductions, with many fans standing to cheer him. It happened again after he reached the mound and heard his name on the public address system.

The enthusiasm over his return wouldn’t die. Paul Goldschmidt’s two-out home run in the first inning only impacted the score.

Means also surrendered a bases-empty, two-strike homer to Towson University’s Richie Palacios in the fourth in a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals before an announced crowd of 15,526 at Camden Yards. He allowed three runs and four hits in five innings, with no walks and one strikeout.

He’s back. That’s a win for the 91-53 Orioles, who remain three games ahead of the Rays, that might impact the division race on another night.

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Rom on his Camden Yards return, Hyde on Means' return to rotation


Drew Rom thought he made it past the trade deadline.

The Orioles’ pitching prospect was in Charlotte with Triple-A Norfolk. Manager Buck Britton approached him. And his baseball life was about to change.

“Was not expecting it at all,” Rom said. “It was literally a minute or two before the trade deadline and Buck walks in and says, ‘Hey Rom, I need to see you in the office real fast.’ I’m like, ‘Oh Lord, here we go.’”

Rom, a Kentucky native, was going to the Cardinals organization with infielder César Prieto and pitcher Zack Showalter for veteran starter Jack Flaherty. He’s starting Wednesday night’s series finale against the Orioles.

“The ball got rolling and next thing I know, I’m in Memphis, and then two weeks later I’m up here in the big leagues with the Cardinals making my debut,” he said. “And then I get to check two things off my check list with playing in Cincinnati and debuting, and the third, playing against the Orioles in Camden.”

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Krehbiel optioned, Westburg returns to lineup

krehbiel camo cap white

The Orioles reinstated John Means from the 60-day injured list today and optioned reliever Joey Krehbiel to Triple-A Norfolk. The 40-man roster is full.

Krehbiel has made six appearances with the Orioles and allowed one run and two hits with five strikeouts in five innings.

Means makes his first start tonight since April 13, 2022. He’s never faced the Cardinals, but the opponent doesn’t matter.

Means is back on the mound and that’s the story.

The magic number is four to clinch a playoff berth. The Orioles are on pace to win 103 games.

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More on Means tonight and what else is happening this week

John Means

Nineteen games remain for the Orioles, but it feels like the first time for John Means.

The left-hander gets back on the mound tonight, finally past his Tommy John surgery and pulled muscle in his upper back and the litany of questions about his recoveries and status. He doesn’t need to say that he’s fine starting or relieving or attempt a guess at his return date.

Means wants to start. He’s a team player and will go along with the program, but yes, he definitely wants to be in the rotation. And the return date is Sept 12, 2023.

The ovation for Means could bring down the center field roof deck bar. Windows could shatter in the warehouse. Jack Flaherty could smile.

(I kid. He’s a serious guy. It’s OK.)

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Elias explains Orioles' plans for Bautista following elbow injury

Bautista black

The Orioles aren’t ready to shut the door on Félix Bautista’s season. They don’t feel the urgency to make a declaration with 20 games remaining before the playoffs.

Bautista isn’t in their bullpen, but time is on their side.

Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias confirmed today in a media session that Bautista has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. An MRI revealed the damage, which is termed “acute-on-chronic.” A sudden injury that also results from use over a period of time.

Surgery to replace the ligament, or a Tommy John procedure, remains a possibility down the road, but the Orioles aren’t traveling it this month.

“The question is when and how to deal with that,” Elias said.

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Orioles and Cardinals lineups

Kremer gray

After going 7-2 on their road trip, the Orioles begin their penultimate homestand of the season with a three-game series against the Cardinals.

This is the first Cardinals visit to Baltimore since 2017, when the Orioles lost the first game 11-2 and won the next two 15-7 and 8-5.

Jordan Westburg came out of Saturday’s game in the seventh inning and wasn’t in yesterday’s lineup. He’s on the bench again tonight.

"Everybody's got little things going on right now," manager Brandon Hyde said on Saturday, adding yesterday that he didn’t have any other updates.

Austin Hays also is a reserve. Aaron Hicks is in left field.

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Orioles understand importance of division title

Danny Coulombe

BOSTON – Ryan O’Hearn wouldn’t get lured out of his baseball comfort zone. The dangling carrot was swatted like a pesky fly. Or a grooved fastball that wraps around the Pesky Pole.

Asked about the significance of the Orioles winning the division and leaving wild card aspirations in the dust, O’Hearn was willing to confirm that the American League East title is “very important.” But don’t press it.

“To me, the No. 1 goal is to make the playoffs, but you’re not going to get me to predict the future or get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said, smiling.

“We focus on every day, same thing we’ve been saying. One game at a time, trying to win a ballgame, and that’s it. If we do that, that’ll take us where we want to go.”

Trust the process, a slogan the Orioles can carry from rebuild to contender. It doesn’t get stale.

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Two rain delays and lost three-run lead ruin Orioles' final game of road trip (Means starts Tuesday)

rodriguez @BOS

BOSTON – Orioles manager Brandon Hyde stood on the soaked infield grass earlier today with a member of the Red Sox’s grounds crew who held a tablet, presumably immune to water damage, and tracked the latest storm in the Boston area. The tarp was rolled up and rain kept falling with an uncomfortable intensity while workers filled shovels with a drying compound. Some players jogged and stretched in the outfield. Fans were invited onto the warning track for a pregame ceremony.

Hyde came out of the dugout again following the anthem. Game status hadn’t changed. The ceremonial first pitch was done with the mound and plate covered. A minor inconvenience.

Adley Rutschman stepped into the batter’s box after a 42-minute delay. The teams were playing, with the smart money on the mudders.

The Orioles usually shine in any weather, but they couldn’t hold an early three-run lead and Grayson Rodriguez lasted only 4 1/3 innings in a 7-3 loss to the Red Sox before an announced crowd of 31,295 at Fenway Park.

The game was halted with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and Joey Krehbiel pitching after another downpour. This delay lasted one hour and 28 minutes, and it took nine minutes to finish. The tarp and patience were stretched. Only one returned to its normal position.

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Means: “I just want to win the World Series"


BOSTON – John Means smiled and confirmed to the local media this morning that, yes, he was available to talk. He moved back toward his locker and waited. Recorders and a television camera were pointed at him. And then, he confirmed how he’s feeling and left the rest of the updates to the club.

Means stayed in his lane while standing inside the clubhouse.

“All I know is I threw a bullpen yesterday, felt really good,” he said. “Other than that, I’m not really sure what the next step is.”

The expectation is for Means to return from the 60-day injured list and make a start in the Cardinals series at Camden Yards. Dean Kremer is listed for Monday night, with Means likely to follow Tuesday. But the Orioles aren’t listing their starters beyond Kremer.

Means threw a bullpen session on Saturday and apparently has passed the tests that determine whether he’s ready to join the active roster for the first time since April 2022. He’s happy with his stuff, how his ball is moving and the reactions to it.

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Westburg out of Orioles lineup for series finale in Boston

Westburg in the cage

BOSTON – The Orioles have reached the end of their three-city road trip with a chance today to register their 10th sweep.

The club has won seven games in a row and 16 of 20. The magic number for clinching a postseason berth is down to five. The lead over the second-place Rays is four.

Jordan Westburg is out of the lineup today after leaving last night’s game in the seventh inning. Manager Brandon Hyde hinted that Westburg is dealing with some soreness but didn’t specify.

Aaron Hicks is in right field. Adam Frazier is the second baseman. Ramón Urías is at third base.

His brother, Luis, is playing second base for the Red Sox.

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McKenna on Means: "It’s been a long time coming for him to come back and we’re all excited"

John Means throws white

BOSTON – A locker was set up yesterday for pitcher John Means. With clothes and equipment. The real deal.

Means has made trips in the past and his locker remains in the same location at Camden Yards. But it felt different.

The left-hander joined the team in Boston after finishing his injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk. He hung out with teammates on Friday, got his locker yesterday and walked to the bullpen for a side session that could determine whether he pitches for the Orioles later this week.

And keeps pitching for them through the postseason.

The medical staff and pitching coaches will confer with Means today, before the flight to Baltimore. He’s expected to enter the rotation for the Cardinals series and make his return on Tuesday, but the Orioles need to check at least one more box before deciding.

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Orioles reach 90 victories with another offensive outburst in Boston (updated)

Cano orange

BOSTON – Jack Flaherty walked to the bullpen for his pre-start warm-up this afternoon, reversed his tracks and headed back to the clubhouse. The claps of thunder, bolts of lightning and a warning for fans to leave the lower seating area and seek cover told Flaherty that he wasn’t going to throw his first pitch at the allotted time.

Any disruption could be unsettling for a guy with an 8.35 ERA in his previous four outings since an impressive debut with the Orioles. He was seeking calm, not the storm.

Justin Turner hit a two-run homer in the first inning, the damage lessened by Ryan Mountcastle’s diving stop and throw to rob Alex Verdugo. Flaherty got a new ball and stood halfway between the mound and second base to collect himself, tossing it in the air and catching it with his bare hand. He pounded his fist into his glove after Trevor Story’s fly ball to right field, the last out in a 26-pitch frame.

There’s more going on with Flaherty than the weather.

The Orioles scored five runs in the third, the last three on Aaron Hicks’ first homer since July 9, and two more in the fourth. They hit five home runs. They picked up their teammate, who was done after 3 1/3 innings. They wobbled but found their legs again.

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Orioles and Red Sox lineups in Boston

jack flaherty gray

BOSTON – Aaron Hicks is in center field this afternoon against the Red Sox and James McCann is catching. Adley Rutschman is the designated hitter.

Austin Hays is the cleanup hitter. Jordan Westburg is at second base and Gunnar Henderson is at third.

Jack Flaherty has posted a 6.66 ERA and 1.521 WHIP in five starts with the Orioles. He struck out seven batters in 4 2/3 innings in Arizona but gave up four runs and six hits.

Flaherty has never faced the Red Sox.

The Orioles have won six games in a row and 12 of 15 and are 89-51 overall, 47-25 on the road. They’ve scored 34 runs this season in four games at Fenway Park.

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