Orioles pregame notes on Mountcastle, Means, Cano and more

CLEVELAND – The Orioles are holding onto their optimism regarding Ryan Mountcastle’s return from the injured list.

Mountcastle is performing some baseball activities to test his left shoulder and stay sharp. He’s eligible to return on Wednesday at Camden Yards.

During Félix Bautista’s bullpen session yesterday, Mountcastle stood at the plate to simulate an at-bat and work on his timing. He didn’t swing the bat.

Mountcastle is also taking ground balls at first base.

“I think he’s going to be ready when the IL date’s up,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

Bautista also benefited from Mountcastle’s presence in the ‘pen because it allowed him to see a hitter. Mountcastle, in turn, was exposed to the velocity.

* John Means makes his third start tonight since his reinstatement from the 60-day injured list. He’s allowed four runs and nine hits in 10 innings, with three walks and two strikeouts.

“Very encouraging,” Hyde said. “The guy hasn’t pitched in a year and a half, you’re not sure what to expect. The fastball and changeup have both been pretty consistent to what we saw from John before. I know he’s been a little bit discouraged with the breaking balls the first two times out, but he’s done a lot of work between starts, and hopefully he has those going today.

“He’s kept us in both games he’s started, and hopefully he can do that again tonight.”

Hyde won’t push Means beyond the post-surgery comfort zone. What’s happening with the bullpen doesn’t factor into his usage.

“I’m not going to make it an unsafe situation for him, but it sure would be nice if he could go for a while.”

* Yennier Cano isn’t getting the same rate of whiffs as earlier in the season. He’s struck out only two of his last 35 batters.

“What he’s been getting besides some hits to some left-handers, a ton of weak contact, and usually it’s on the ground,” Hyde said. “He’s not giving up a ton of damage except to some left-handers. He just made a poor pitch on (Andrés) Giménez last night. And then we get in a double play situation and he just didn’t get the sinker down the way he normally gets a ground ball in those types of situations.

“Listen, all these guys are pitching in times right now where they’ve never been in before, from the fatigue and the length standpoint, and I’m really proud of them. If you look at my pitching card right now, there’s a lot of four out of sixes. That doesn’t even count ups. This stretch that we’ve been in, the schedule maker needs to take a look at it, because it’s really, really unfair and unhealthy. To do this to a team in September, especially with the teams that we’re playing.

“I’m really, really proud of our guys for hanging in there, posting, wanting to pitch, wanting to play. They’re playing to win every single night and it shows by the amount of close games that we’re playing. We’re in every single game, whether we win or we lose. We’re playing exciting baseball and sometimes we’re getting it done and sometimes we’re not. But they’re playing their absolute butts off.”

* A few starters, including Kyle Gibson, have moved to the bullpen during games to make themselves available in case of an emergency. The postseason rotation won’t hold five, which enables the extras to be used in relief.

“I think the bullpen could look potentially a little bit different,” Hyde said. “That’s why winning a division would be so important for these guys, to give everybody some time off, and that’s what we’re pushing for right now. But we’ll see where we are at the end of the season. You could put a couple starters down there who maybe haven’t pitched in a while and it might be helpful. We’ll see.”

Hyde won’t consider doing it now, though the club finally is off Monday.

“I would love to stay away from that unless it’s absolutely necessary,” he said.

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