Means on pitching in 2023: “Yeah, absolutely"

John Means wanted to make one more throw with a weighted medical ball, put a little extra behind it, before concluding his workout in Sarasota and heading to Baltimore. Go a little harder with his body feeling so good and with a July return to the Orioles becoming a firmer reality.

And then, the pain hit him. A strained muscle in his upper back, an area known as the teres major.

The club hopes it’s just a minor setback.

Nothing related to his elbow reconstructive surgery in April 2022, but an incident that delays his season debut and plunge into a pennant race.

“It just kind of yanked on me a little bit,” Means said this morning. “Disappointing, obviously, but at least it’s not a throwing injury or anything like that. But at the same time, it makes it a little bit more frustrating.”

“It feels great right now,” he said. “I don’t feel it when standing here or anything. It’s just kind of like when I put socks on or pull stuff.”

Most important to Means and the team is how he intends to pitch later this summer.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said.

The strain isn’t the same as the type to Means' shoulder that forced him onto the injured list in the past, including June 2019 and 2021. Means missed his Opening Day assignment in 2020 due to arm fatigue.

“I feel really good about the shoulder muscles that are important for pitching. I took care of all that,” he said.

“Obviously, this happens, and at first it kind of felt, since it’s in a similar area, like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But once I found out that it’s kind of in the muscle belly and it has nothing to do with all the shoulder work I’ve been doing, and a little bit more … I don’t know how to really think about it, to be honest with you. But yeah, it’s a little frustrating.”

“It’s just one of those things you have to let calm down before you start building back up again. So, we’re just going to let it calm down here and then kind of start to build back up. It shouldn’t put me back too much longer.”

Asked about August, Means replied, “Something like that, yeah. We’re just going to kind of see how it goes.”

The workouts are scaled down while Means recovers.

“I’m able to do lower half and run and core and all that,” he said. “I’m taking it a little easy on the upper half right now, but I’m able to do most things besides throwing and working upper half.”

Means could lead the league in cardio, a goal he never intended to set but can smile about.

“I should by that point, absolutely,” he said.

The Orioles begin today with the third-best record in baseball and every intention of making the playoffs, with the rebuild now referenced as being in the past.

“It’s incredible just being in the clubhouse again, and just, you feel the energy,” Means said. “It’s so different and it’s so great to see.”

Means can join in, but the wait has become longer.

“It’s been tough,” he said. “Obviously, the last year and a half has been tough mentally, and now have this thrown on. I’ve been through harder before, so it’s one of those things that, I’m learning more than I ever have. We’re just going to take it, roll with it, and see what happens.”

“Disappointed in the setback, definitely, and feel badly for him,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I think we’re fortunate and hopeful that it’s going to be not too much longer after his initial start-back date anyway. I know he was looking forward to getting back out there, getting his rehab cranked up, and just has to wait a little bit now. But it’s great to see him in here. Love having him around. But disappointing.”

* Hyde said outfielder Anthony Santander didn’t play yesterday because of some soreness in his left elbow, but he’s the cleanup hitter this afternoon.

“We wanted to give him the entire day off yesterday, just didn’t do anything,” Hyde said. “That’s why he wasn’t in there yesterday or available to pinch-hit.”

* Hyde isn’t ready to announce Wednesday’s starter against the Guardians. The Orioles need a replacement for Grayson Rodriguez, who was optioned.

“Probably tomorrow,” Hyde said.

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