More on Orioles' ALDS roster and being home for Game 1 (updated)

The Orioles knew in advance that they wanted to keep 14 position players and reduce their pitching staff to 12 for the American League Division Series.

They weren’t expecting John Means to be missing, his elbow soreness after Thursday’s simulated game creating an opening for reliever Bryan Baker.

Plan ahead and prepare to pivot.

Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t confirm that Means was going to start prior to the elbow issue, calling him “a candidate.” And he didn’t reveal who would take the mound for Game 3 Tuesday night in Arlington.

Dean Kremer and Kyle Gibson are locked into the rotation based on Means’ disappearance from it. One of them seemed to be headed to the bullpen.

“Dean and Kyle Gibson both threw the ball extremely well this year,” Hyde said. “We're hoping that John can take a few days off, rehab and hopefully if we can advance that he'll be available for the next series.”

The Orioles declined a 13/13 roster split that the Rangers chose and went with 14 position players.

“If we go to a seven-game series, things might change,” Hyde said. “A five-game series with a couple of off-days in there that potentially, you feel more comfortable carrying less pitchers.

“With the Means thing we had to make some tough decisions there on choices on who we're going to keep on the pitching staff. That was the majority of the conversation, honestly, was our bullpen and what we're going to do.”

Means returned from his 2022 Tommy John surgery to allow four runs and eight hits in his last three starts over 18 2/3 innings. He carried a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings in Cleveland before Andrés Giménez homered.

Kyle Bradish has developed into the staff ace, explaining why he’s pitching today, and rookie Grayson Rodriguez earned the Game 2 assignment.

“It's been unbelievable,” outfielder Austin Hays said of Bradish’s emergence this season and Rodriguez’s growth in the second half.

“I'll speak on Grayson first. Whatever adjustment he made when he went down this year, he's been a completely different pitcher when he came back up. You can just see the hunger in his eyes. When he’s walking out there for the start there's no fear, a ton of confidence in every one of his pitches, ton of confidence in the catchers putting the pitches down. He’s just been a totally different guy.

"Bradish, it seems like every start he's adding another pitch to a different location. Just so tough to have a plan against because he’ll throw any pitch in any count. Ton of confidence in every one of his pitches. So just being able to throw every one of his pitches in any count, honestly, has been such a big difference for him. And understanding when to go for swing and miss and when to go for strikes.

“I think early on he tried to get a lot of chase, fell behind in a lot of counts. But once he started attacking and understanding when we to go for the chase and the swing and miss, it's made all the difference in the world for him and it's been a lot of fun to play behind him and see that.”

Hyde was told last night that the Rangers intended to start left-hander Andrew Heaney in Game 1.

“I knew there was an option he could start,” Hyde said. “They had a few options, but I wasn't sure which direction they were going to go in, so I made a few lineups, honestly, before I found out who it was going to be. … I tried to let the players know as soon as possible.”

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy confirmed that the left field dimensions influenced his pitching decision.

“We looked at everything, all the variables that could come into play,” he said, “and that's certainly one of them."

Max Scherzer threw a simulated game yesterday but won’t be available to the Rangers until the next round if they advance.

“Today got up and felt pretty good, but still we didn't feel like we had enough information where we could put him on the roster right now,” Bochy said. “He was not going to be available the first two games, so we decided not to put him on for that reason. We'll continue his throwing and he'll continue to make progress and we'll see where we're at as we get deeper in this series.”

The Orioles flew the entire baseball operations staff - scouting and player development, including from the Dominican Republic - to Baltimore for the playoffs.

Fans are filing into the ballpark as a light rain falls. The latest forecast shows rain ending by 1 p.m.

The ballpark will be rocking, no matter the weather.

“I couldn't be happier to play my first career playoff game at home in front of these fans, a place I've been my entire career,” Hays said. “I know it's been a long time coming for them. I'm really excited to get out there. I imagine it will be somewhat comparable to Opening Day when it's completely sold out, you’ve got orange everywhere, flyovers, all the antics, everything. It's a lot of fun.

“I imagine it's going to be another level of how loud it is, just how engaged the fans are, standing up every pitch. We're at home, so I'm glad they're going to be behind us.”

The bad times are behind players like Hays who endured at least stretches of the rebuild. Buried in losses and now basking in the team’s success.

“Just from a player perspective, going through those really tough years, there was a lot of cliques on the team, clubhouse was kind of divided. Guys were just playing to kind of stick and just try to find their way in the big leagues,” Hays said.

“But last year and really this year, the culture of the clubhouse changed completely, where it wasn't a selfish attitude anymore, it really was playing to win. Taking such pride in our defense, and just being able to pass the baton to one another, understanding it's not going to be nine guys in most of our games. We're going to have to use guys off the bench, we’re going to have to pinch-run. You're going to get pinch-hit for. And that’s OK. He's putting us in the best possible situation as players, and we understand that. And having a clubhouse that buys into that makes all the difference in the world.

“That was just the biggest turnaround outside of the talent and what Mike (Elias) in the front office was able to do with how well they drafted. Seems like they haven't missed on any of the early draft picks. Those guys came up right away, they're pros. You wouldn't know that these guys are 22, 23 years old with no big league experience at all. It seems like they’ve been doing it for a long time in the big leagues and that's not what we had before.

“So just the combination of a clubhouse that loves one another and will do anything for one another, and we're as relentless as can be one through 14 on offense, and the bullpen always having each other's backs. You just combine that with a lot of talent and a lot of depth and a lot of Triple-A depth, so when we have injuries now, you have a lot of guys in Triple-A that are going to come up and it's going to be close to what you lost. It's been a complete turnaround from all those different aspects.”

Hyde is back in the postseason for the first time since his days on the Cubs’ coaching staff, including the 2016 championship team. His roster is tweaked. His goal is the same.

Give the Orioles their first World Series title in 40 years.

“I'm going to be aggressive,” he said. “I definitely like to have my eyes tell me what's going on, also, and have a feel for the game. I feel like we've been playing playoff games for a while a little bit. So I'm going to match up the best way out of the bullpen, I'm going to pinch-hit, pinch-run when I think it's appropriate. And do anything I can to win a game.”

Update: The forecast got worse. The start of the game will be delayed.

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