More questions and curiosities about the 2024 Orioles

Earlier this week, I wondered whether Kyle Bradish could build on his breakout season, if Jordan Westburg would play more regularly, and whether Cole Irvin would keep bouncing between the rotation and bullpen.

We’re a long way from getting any answers.

Here are three more while we wait for the Orioles to make a big move.

Does John Means give the Orioles a full and productive season?

Let’s start with the full part.

Means underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2022 returned this year to make four starts, his return delayed by a pulled muscle in his upper back. He was omitted from the Division Series roster due to elbow soreness that cropped up after his two-inning simulated game.

Past seasons have been stalled by left shoulder soreness and fatigue, which cost him the Opening Day assignment in 2020.

The elbow is fine, and Means is full-go for spring training. His injuries are behind him, and not like the back muscle.

As for the productive part, Means is the owner of an All-Star selection and a no-hitter. He wasn’t the same swing-and-miss pitcher in his four post-surgery outings, but he allowed only seven runs and 13 hits in 23 2/3 innings and held the Guardians hitless through the sixth in Cleveland.

Deep dives into his stuff and lack of strikeouts seem shallow considering he was coming back from elbow reconstructive surgery. Let’s broaden the sample size before hoisting any red flags.

Means could reestablish himself as the staff ace or slot lower in a rotation that might be the deepest in many years.

What happens with Dillon Tate?

The Orioles tendered Tate a contract for 2024 and the sides have until Jan. 12 to reach agreement before the deadline to submit salary figures. They can keep negotiating until the hearing date.

Tate couldn’t join Team USA in the World Baseball Classic due to a right forearm flexor strain suffered last November. He experienced a stress reaction in his elbow in May and didn’t pitch in the majors.

“He’s healing from a long injury and there was a minor flareup in another part of his elbow,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said in May. “I don’t think this is any cause for concern but it’s going to slow down his ability to come off the IL.”

Tate didn’t leave it, and he wasn’t around the team for the celebrations.

The right-hander would be a nice addition to the bullpen if able to recapture his 2022 form, when he posted a 3.05 ERA and 0.991 WHIP and led the team with 67 appearances. A ground ball pitcher is valuable, and his injury prompted the Orioles to sign Mychal Givens last winter.

Givens appeared in six games because of his own injuries and was released.

A late-inning reliever with closing experience is on the shopping list, but Tate could be a weapon again in a setup role or earlier. His last win with the Orioles was on Sept. 6, 2022 against Toronto after he worked the fourth and fifth innings.

Tate’s health would make a nice topic for Elias during one of his suite sessions at the Winter Meetings.  

Does Seth Johnson debut next summer?

The Orioles traded for Johnson at the 2022 deadline knowing that he’d undergo Tommy John surgery. They didn't mind the wait. And scouts viewed him as a steal.

MLB Pipeline ranks Johnson, 25, as the No. 15 prospect in the organization. The Rays selected him 40th overall in the 2019 draft.

Johnson made only seven appearances with High-A Bowling Green in 2022, striking out 41 batters in 27 innings before the elbow injury. He pitched in five games this season spread over four affiliates and finished with Double-A Bowie.

The elbow is reconstructed. A promising career is rebuilt.

Johnson is on the 40-man roster and capable of handling a normal spring training schedule. Finally just one of the guys in the pitchers’ room.

One of the prospects worth watching in camp and after the real games begin.  

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John Means' September return was a 2023 highlight ...

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