One day short of his 29th birthday, Orioles starter John Means confirmed today that he won’t pitch again in 2022.
Means tweeted that he’s undergoing ligament-reconstructive surgery on his left elbow, an expected outcome after the Orioles placed him on the injured list retroactive to April 14, transferred him to the 60-day IL and clarified the injury as a sprain. He left his April 13 start after four innings with forearm tightness.
With a recovery time that can exceed a full year, Means likely won’t return to the mound until he’s 30.
Means sought multiple opinions following his first MRI. He’ll have surgery on Wednesday in Texas, with Dr. Keith Meister handling the procedure. Meister performed the same surgery on Orioles 2020 fifth-round draft pick Carter Baumler.
“I’m obviously disappointed, but more motivated than ever,” Means tweeted. “In the meantime, I’m looking forward to watching what this team can do this year. I’ll be back, Go O’s.”
Means’ wife, Caroline, tweeted: “Most competitive, dedicated and focused person I've ever met. Not a doubt in my heart he'll be back better than before. The wild story continues.”
The Orioles also lost Means to the injured list in the three previous seasons, but always due to discomfort in his left shoulder He hadn’t experienced forearm/elbow pain until his opening day start at Tropicana Field, feeling it on a curveball.
It resurfaced in the third inning of his second start, remained with every pitch and eventually led to today’s announcement.
Means allowed three runs and eight hits in eight innings this season and has a 3.81 ERA and 1.082 WHIP in 70 career games since the Orioles chose him in the 11th round in 2014 out of West Virginia. He was an All-Star in 2019 and placed second in American League Rookie of the Year voting, and threw a no-hitter on May 5, 2021 in Seattle.
Orioles starters have allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 straight games and registered a 1.69 ERA during that span. The team’s ERA for the season is down to 2.80, tied for fifth in the majors. But losing Means is a heavy blow.
Means and Jordan Lyles are the veterans in the rotation counted upon to consume innings. Tyler Wells is working in a tandem setup, and other spots are filled by Spenser Watkins and Chris Ellis, who were added to the 40-man roster after the season began and start the next two games in Anaheim.
Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann, slotted fourth on opening day, was stretched out to six-plus innings last night and has allowed only two earned runs and 16 strikeouts in 15 frames.
Top pitching prospects Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish won’t be rushed to fill needs at the major league level.
Means still doesn’t have his salary set for the season. An arbitration hearing must be held later in the summer, with Means seeking $3.1 million and the team submitting $2.7 million.
He’s under team control for two more seasons, and the surgery eliminates any possibility that he’ll be traded in 2022 and perhaps 2023.