Jordan Lyles is starting tonight’s series opener against the Yankees at Camden Yards, and it seems like the right time for the veteran right-hander to lead the rotation.
John Means might not be around to do it.
The Orioles should have more information on Means’ status later this afternoon. He exited Wednesday night’s game after four innings with tightness in his left forearm and was set to undergo tests.
Good news from an MRI could clear Means to throw in a few days, but his next start might be pushed back. The discomfort is believed to be muscular. Means said there’s not “a ton of concern.”
But still enough to go around.
The shoulder has been responsible for Means landing on the injured list in each of the last three seasons – strain, fatigue, however you want to label it. He’s never experienced an issue with the elbow/forearm area, and there’s naturally some fear of the unknown.
Means didn’t know whether a rushed spring training led to his injury, if that’s what we’re calling it without the MRI result. He felt it while throwing a curveball on opening day, and again Wednesday with the same pitch. It didn’t go away when he tried the fastball and changeup, and manager Brandon Hyde removed him.
I’m no doctor, though I play one on television, but I’d think a serious injury would have been accompanied by pain during Means’ side session, while he warmed up Wednesday and in the first inning. Not just the tightness after he threw a curveball in the third inning. But that’s an amateur’s diagnosis.
The rotation already was unsettled with no game yesterday delaying the need for a fifth starter. Pushing back Means or placing him on the injured list creates more chaos.
Spenser Watkins was the fifth starter after one spin of the rotation, with no assurances that he’d get the ball again. Alexander Wells is in the bullpen and waiting to pitch in 2022.
Keegan Akin hasn’t allowed a run in 5 2/3 relief innings, with only two hits, no walks and four strikeouts. Hyde really wants to keep using him in the current manner, which obviously is bringing out the best in him – an aggressive and confident strike-thrower has emerged – but desperate times may force a change in thinking.
Mike Baumann delivered 2 1/3 scoreless innings with one hit and three strikeouts in the home opener. It’s the same situation. Ideally he’s kept in the bullpen and provides a tandem option, a hard-throwing right-hander as a nice contrast to a lefty. But the Orioles might have to pivot.
I don’t see the Orioles hustling top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez to the majors after two Triple-A starts. Kyle Bradish logged 86 2/3 innings with Norfolk last year over 21 appearances and tossed four scoreless innings in his only start this season. He stayed back in Sarasota for a little while before joining the Tides, and he made such a solid impression in camp that he began to look like a candidate for the opening day roster.
Bradish is pushing for a promotion, but is it too early for the club’s timetable?
Chris Ellis started on the same night as Means and tossed four hitless innings. He isn’t on the 40-man roster and would require a corresponding move.
Left-hander Zac Lowther is on the 40-man and he’s hopped on the shuttle before. He made his first Tides appearance on Sunday and allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings.
For development’s sake, he probably should stay down and keep pitching every five days. However, he’d be a convenient substitute.
Don’t come at me with DL Hall. He’s still at extended spring training and hasn’t pitched beyond Double-A. He isn’t making that jump.
Hyde might need another tandem arrangement if Means goes on the injured list, as if he was searching for more of them. The Orioles could bring up a pitcher who backs up someone already on the active roster. The newbie wouldn’t necessarily take the ball first.
Best-case scenario here is probably Means avoiding the IL but unable to make his next start after a brief rest period and bullpen session or two. Staying on turn would have put him on the mound Monday night in Oakland. Seems pretty ambitious.
A fifth starter was needed the following night, with Lyles working on normal rest Wednesday.
Six games into the season and Hyde is left with a bit of a mess. His ace leaving a start early after Dean Kremer strained his oblique while warming Sunday at Tropicana Field. One pitcher counted on to provide quality length from the start, the other as the backend of a tandem.
Kremer appeared to be slotted as the No. 3 starter in camp, became a candidate for fifth, was tabbed for long relief and now could miss a month of the season.
You can draw up as many plans as you want before breaking camp, but there’s just no way to know exactly what’s in store. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
The Yankees are starting left-hander Jordan Montgomery, right-hander Jameson Taillon and left-hander Nestor Cortes against the Orioles, whose bullpen has covered 29 1/3 innings, fourth-most in the American League before last night.
A 2.45 ERA was third-lowest in the league.
The Orioles are batting .201/.300/.299, their .599 OPS ranking 25th in the majors before last night. But Anthony Santander is 6-for-15 with a double, home run, six walks and two hit by pitches. He leads the team in walks, which hasn’t been part of his skill set in the past.
* Bowie outfielder Hudson Haskin came out of Wednesday night’s game after being hit by a pitch that ran in on his hands in his first at-bat. I’m told that his removal was very precautionary, and there didn’t seem to be much concern about it within the organization. He was out of last night’s lineup.
Haskin, a second-round pick in the 2020 draft out of Tulane University, was 9-for-16 with three doubles in the first four games, and he hit three home runs in Sunday’s game against Richmond.