Pregame Orioles notes on Means, Bautista, Mountcastle, Baumann, offensive slump and more

John Means is bouncing back in fine fashion after making his first start Tuesday since undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in April 2022.

“Everything’s felt great,” he said today. “It’s felt better than it has in a while, so I’m really pleased with everything that’s going on and how I’m feeling.”

Means threw a bullpen session on Thursday, again with the desired results.

“Felt good, everything feels normal,” he said.

Staying with a six-man rotation puts Means on the mound again Monday night in Houston, where he could be pitted against veteran Justin Verlander. The teams haven't listed their starters for the three-game series.

Verlander also started Tuesday and he isn’t pitching this weekend.

Closer Félix Bautista played catch again on the field for the second day in a row. He gradually moved back to increase the distance.

Tossing on flat ground on back-to-back days counts as progress for Bautista, who suffered a slight tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow three weeks ago. The Orioles are taking a conservative approach instead of rushing into any decisions on his future, including whether he undergoes surgery that would cost him the 2024 season.

Ryan Mountcastle is out of the lineup again with left shoulder discomfort. He did some early hitting yesterday.

“For me, just OK yesterday,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Hopefully, he can get in there today and be a factor for us off the bench. I’m still waiting to see.”

The Orioles recalled Mike Baumann this afternoon and optioned Bryan Baker, who worked three innings last night while forced into a long relief role.

“The big reason for (Baumann) to go down there was to give him a little bit of a break, like we said at the time,” Hyde said. “He had a few weeks and did some scheduled outings and kind of just backed off a little bit because he had thrown so much up here in his first full year in the bullpen in the big leagues, and did a really nice job.

“With Bake taking a big load last night, we needed Mike back here tonight.”

Asked how important Baumann could be down the stretch, Hyde said, “We need all our guys to pitch well, so hopefully Mike can give us a lift out of the bullpen.”

The Orioles have a magic number of three to clinch a playoff berth. Their four-game losing streak matches their season high, and they’re only percentage points ahead of the Rays for first place.

Hyde said he hasn’t changed his approach with his players or his job.

“We’ve played really well this year and just had a few games in a row now where we haven’t swung the bat very well,” he said. “Give Tampa credit. Those were two extremely well-pitched games, and two really good starters. The bullpen hasn’t given up a run in three years. It’s a tough assignment. We just have to do a better job of trying to get on base and making things happen. But they’ve pitched extremely well against us these last two nights.

“I’m just trying to be as consistent as possible. We haven’t had many stretches where we haven’t been playing very well, so it’s worked so far. I’m not going to change things up right now. You try to shuffle things around a little bit, but you don’t want to show any sort of frustration or anything like that. When guys are struggling offensively, you know it. I don’t need to let you know. They want to do well, and so, you’ve got to be there to support them.”

Hyde also isn't inclined to gather his players for a closed-door meeting, which also would be out of character.

"I've had a few team meetings the last few years, but not like during season," he said. "It's got to get to a certain point for that for me, and it's usually about effort. If you don't feel like the effort's there. But everybody in there is giving great effort and they have been all year, and so there's really no reason for me to alarm anybody. It's more about me being supportive. If I feel like somebody needs to come into my office to talk, whether it's positive or negative, or if there's something I need to get off my chest or their chest, I want to be open for that. And those things happen regularly that nobody sees."

Double-A Bowie’s Samuel Basallo played first base today and had a double, triple, RBI, walk and run scored in a 4-2 loss to Harrisburg.

Kyle Brnovich and Jean Pinto were reinstated from the injured list. Brnovich allowed one run and two hits with a walk and two strikeouts in two relief innings. Pinto allowed one run and two hits with a walk and two strikeouts in one inning.

For the Rays
Yandy Díaz 1B
Brandon Lowe 2B
Randy Arozarena LF
Luke Raley RF
Manuel Margot CF
Curtis Mead 3B
Jonathan Aranda DH
Osleivis Basabe SS
René Pinto C

Tyler Glasnow RHP

O's game blog: Looking for a win in the Tampa Bay ...
Baumann on his return to the Orioles bullpen

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