John Means: "I was ready to feel like I was worth something again"

The Orioles haven't named their opening day starter for July 24, an announcement shelved due to baseball's shutdown.

John Means was lined up for the assignment and nothing has happened to change the narrative.

Means worked four "innings" yesterday while throwing live batting practice, which actually meant dialing down from his home activity.

"I think I'm very close," he said today in a Zoom conference call. "Over the quarantine, I had built up to five innings, 75 pitches, but since the testing and the couple days off we had to take, we kind of bumped it back down to four (and) 65.

"I finished strong. I didn't feel any sort of different fatigue or anything like that. I felt strong and I feel like if I had to go out there tomorrow and pitch, I could."

He's going to do it in an empty stadium.

"It's going to be weird, it's going to be different," he said. "The weirdest part is all these games count more than they ever have and you're not going to feel that energy of these games counting from the fans. So it's kind of a mix of both, which I think it might take some time getting used to, but I think overall this team, especially for how young we are, we're able to create energy in the dugout and on the field, so I think we kind of have an advantage with that."

Means-Throws-White-Vs-KC-Sidebar.jpgMeans said he won't change his approach to an abbreviated season, keeping the same mindset that made him one of the top rookies in the American League and an All-Star in 2019.

"As far as the routine goes, it's pretty much the same," Means said. "You really don't need to hold anything back. Not that I ever do, but it's a sprint. You've got to leave everything you possibly have out there. I'll probably get 12 starts, so that's less than half of what I'd normally get. You might as well just let it eat every game and then walk off the field like you gave it your all."

Means and wife Caroline are expecting their first baby, which could place him in a higher risk category. He underwent a more unique process than others while wondering about the possibility of a season.

"It was tough because there was a lot up in the air, but honestly with everything going on, it was nice being home with the family," he said. "I got to spend a lot of holidays with my family. Like both me and my brother's birthdays, Father's Day, Mother's Day, that you don't usually get to spend with your family. That was kind of a blessing in disguise. But I mean, the whole time, I was ready to get back to baseball. I was ready to feel like I was worth something again."

The workouts during the shutdown included live batting practice sessions with his younger brother Jake, a minor leaguer in the Royals system.

"That was something we had never done before," John said. "I faced him probably 300 times over the quarantine, so I got to face him quite a few times.

"We played on a 2A high school field. And it was 250 to left field. So he got me a few times - some real ones, some that are wall-scrapers that might have been an easy flyout. But it was fun. It's something that we never would have done before and we got the chance to do it."

With the minor league season canceled, the older brother can sympathize with the plight of the young players who must scrounge for innings and at-bats. And particularly the ones at the lowest levels of the farm system.

"It's tough, it really is," Means said. "Especially, you're losing a year of development. But I think once we get back to the swing of things and once we get back to the next year, the guys that put in the work will exceed everybody else.

"I feel like the split between the guys that put in the work during the offseason and the guys that didn't are going to be astronomical. So if you stay on your stuff, you can skip up through the minor leagues pretty quick, I think. And I think that's going to be the biggest difference coming back."

The catchers took batting practice as today's small media contingent entered the press box. Pitcher Dillon Tate did some running on the warning track - we can't mark him as absent - and relievers Hunter Harvey, Tanner Scott, Rob Zastryzny, Kohl Stewart, Cole Sulser and Eric Hanhold got loose in the outfield before throwing.

Reliever Shawn Armstrong sat in the stands after setting up the Trackman unit while Stewart pitched to Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, Stevie Wilkerson and Bryan Holaday. Manager Brandon Hyde slid further down the row for proper distancing.

Tommy Milone leaned on the visiting dugout railing with an ice pack on his left shoulder.

Pitching coach Doug Brocail was stationed behind the mound or home plate, wearing his mask as usual for these workouts.

Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias took his usual seat on the other side of the umpires' tunnel while wearing his mask and operating the radar gun.

Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel made his daily visit from the tunnel to confer with Elias. He never stays for long, but he keeps passing along information that isn't shared with the beat crew.

Three days of media access have expired without an on-field appearance from outfielders Dwight Smith Jr. and Anthony Santander. Among the pitchers who haven't been spotted are starter Alex Cobb and reliever Mychal Givens.

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