Elias details setbacks for Means and Tate

The Orioles won’t plug John Means into their rotation in two months. The timetable for his return has fractured.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias revealed today that Means strained the scapula region in his upper back while performing activation drills in Sarasota. The injury isn’t related to past shoulder issues, per Elias, and the severity is reduced because it’s muscular. But July isn't happening.

Elias said Means “is and was flying along” in his recovery from Tommy John surgery in April 2022 before this week’s setback.

“It’s not his shoulder capsule, it’s not a throwing injury,” Elias said. “He’s just got a strained muscle in the scapula. It’s called the ‘teres major.’ So, this is basically just going to add some time to his return back to the Orioles.

“How long exactly, I don’t know. We’re still very much hoping on getting him back this season, but this is obviously going to slow things down and tack on some time before we actually see him out in games. But he’s doing well. This isn’t the end of the world or anything. It’s just kind of bad timing, an unfortunately timed muscle strain that’s just going to cause him to have to kill some time in his rehab while we wait for that to heal.”

Elias noted again how the strain doesn’t mimic the ones that have forced him onto the injured list in previous years, including June 2019 and 2021. He missed his Opening Day assignment in 2020 due to arm fatigue.

“He was doing some drills and pulled a muscle, basically, in his back,” Elias said. “It’s in the scapula area, like I was saying, and it happened precipitously on one little movement. Was not throwing a baseball, nothing like that. Not related to that, and yeah, I don’t think July is in the picture now. We’ll see after that and kind of take it as it comes.

“We’ve seen that a couple of these muscle-strain timelines can just vary, and I don’t see any reason to start throwing numbers out there, but very, very optimistic to get him back in 2023 still.”

This is a blow to the Orioles’ rotation plans, even if Means returns later in the summer. They were counting on him to be a deadline addition from within the organization.

“We miss John Means,” Elias said. “The bright side of it is, this is probably still going to be within the time frame of what may have happened just from the Tommy John reconstruction. He was just doing so well that we were getting our hopes up that he was going to come back on a real quick timeline. But look, these things happen. I’m glad it wasn’t his elbow, anything kind of throwing related, and we’ve got five pitchers here really pitching well and in a groove. We’ve also got a really good group in Triple-A. We’d love to see some of these guys up here, too, if the need arises.

“We’ll be all right, but we’d love to get John back. But the important thing is getting him healthy. We’ll just kind of take it as it comes. This stuff can change by the day in terms of what we need in the rotation. But certainly, he’s a talent that, you fit him in there when he’s ready.”

Losing Means as a deadline option for the rotation could influence the team’s plans regarding trade discussions. At least, their level of aggression.

“We’re thinking about the trade deadline, we’re aware of the standings right now, we’re aware of what we view our talent level to be. It’s all positive stuff. But it’s over two months away,” Elias said.

“It depends so much on other teams’ records and what their strategies are. I can’t tell what it’s going to look like. We’re certainly doing the work in the warehouse to prepare for a number of scenarios, and that’s what our pro scouting department and our front office does. But so much can change on our end. I hope it doesn’t change on our end, and I don’t think that it will, but we’ve got to see what happens around the league and where we’re at in the standings. I just trust that the front office is doing what it should be doing to prepare for the trade deadline. And we’re preparing to be buyers.”

With a deep farm system and some payroll flexibility, Elias said the Orioles are preparing for all types of scenarios.

“And they’re buy scenarios,” he said.

“I think the deadline, so much of it that’s murky with me is who the sellers are going to be. What are other teams going to try to do? What are the standings going to look like? These extra playoff spots seem to have really changed the landscape and the dynamic and the balanced schedule, and you just see some weird stuff going on in each division compared to one another. So, it’s really not clear what that’s going to look like.

“We’re just trying to get a clearer sense of the type of players that might provide the biggest impact for us, where those players might be coming from, and trying to gauge any likelihood that any of these players might be on the market in some way, shape or form, and then working on the evaluations right now. But stuff definitely changes day to day in this business with injuries and all kinds of crazy stuff. But it definitely changes week to week and month to month, so it’s hard to just get too far ahead of myself, but we’re putting the work in and I have a ton of confidence in our pro scouting staff and analytics staff and those kinds of people that are on the front lines of preparing for the trade deadline.”

Meanwhile, Dillon Tate is staying on the injured list, which alters the club’s plans for its bullpen.

Tate suffered a stress reaction in his right elbow/forearm area during his rehab assignment that Elias said is unrelated to the reliever’s previous injury. Tate will be shut down for a certain period and start a new rehab assignment.

The previous assignment ended earlier this week, but the latest injury allows the Orioles to restart his clock.

Tate appeared in 10 minor league games, the last half with Triple-A Norfolk, and posted a 14.04 ERA and 2.880 WHIP in 8 1/3 innings.

“He’s doing pretty well in the big picture with his recovery from the flexor strain that he suffered last November, but he hasn’t felt totally right,” Elias said. “He had a bit of a stress reaction in part of his elbow separate from the previous injury. It just flared up a little bit. Don’t view this as a particularly long-term addition to his rehab, but it’s just a part of his process of getting right. He’s feeling something right now, so we’re keeping him on the IL and moving him from his rehab assignment.

“Hopefully, very soon he’ll be able to reinitiate his progression.”

Tate’s elbow is “adapting to pitching,” Elias added, and is healing after a long layoff.

“There was a minor flare-up in another part of his elbow,” Elias said. “I don’t think this is overly cause for concern, but it’s just going to slow down his ability to come off the IL. So, I think we’ll have him back out pitching soon. At least, that’s my expectation right now. But we’ve just got to work through this and he’s going to stay on the IL for now.”

Tate and Means are in Baltimore. Tate made a brief appearance in the clubhouse during media access.

Triple-A outfielder Colton Cowser, the No. 2 prospect in the organization per MLB Pipeline, is nearing a return from a quad injury.

“I don’t have a particular timeline, but I’m hopeful that it’s measured more in days than weeks at this point,” Elias said. “I don’t think this is a major injury.”

Shortstop Jackson Holliday, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, is tearing up the South Atlantic League with High-A Aberdeen in the same fashion as his destruction with Single-A Delmarva in the Carolina League. He’s batting a combined .396/.520/.684 in 38 games with 12 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 35 RBIs, 36 walks and 31 strikeouts.

The Orioles aren’t ready to promote him to the next level, but he’s going to play for Double-A Bowie in 2023.

“If he, fingers crossed, stays healthy, this doesn’t look like a pace of a guy that’s going to stay in A ball all year,” Elias said.

“We want to do the right thing by his development. I don’t think just skipping across the waves and not really spending any time there is a good idea, but we’ll move him if and when we think it’s the exact right thing to do for his development. But can’t say enough about how well he’s doing.

“I’ll say I’ve been a part of a lot of big draft picks, and I’ve probably never had one where I’ve worried this little about him and how he goes about his business and his skill level. I’m really glad we have him in the organization.”

For the Rangers
Marcus Semien 2B
Corey Seager SS
Nathaniel Lowe 1B
Adolis García RF
Josh Jung 3B
Josh H. Smith LF
Robbie Grossman DH
Leody Taveras CF
Sandy Leon C

Jon Gray RHP

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