The Orioles top starting pitcher for the year - he’s 6-4 with a 2.67 ERA - is certain he will return when his 10-day injured list stint is up on an off-day, the day before the O’s host Cleveland June 28. He was placed on the IL today, retroactive to June 17, with a left shoulder strain.
Means said what he felt at the end of his last start is something he’s been through before. He did not even have an MRI to check on possible structural damage.
“It happened in the last inning of my last outing,” Means said of his start Sunday at home against Boston. “I threw a pitch and it kind of tightened up on me. I ended up finishing and coming out. The next day, it was really tight. It’s just muscle. It’s nothing serious. It’s something we just don’t want lingering, so we’re going to take a start off and I’ll make the next one.
“I had it in college. It was a strained deltoid. It’s strictly muscle, it’s nothing serious. It’s one of those things that gets tight and is uncomfortable and doesn’t feel good to throw, but once it loosens up it’s fine.”
Means, who has pitched to an ERA of 2.05 his last four starts, has allowed 60 hits over 70 2/3 innings with 21 walks, 59 strikeouts and with a 1.146 WHIP. If he had enough innings to qualify, he would rank fifth in the AL in ERA.
“This is the first start I’ve ever missed in my pro career,” he said. “Well, for injury. I was in the hospital two different times - those were the only other starts I missed, for a sickness. I don’t like it. I don’t like missing starts. I like hitting every one of them.”
Means, who was scheduled to start against the Mariners Friday, said “easily” when asked if he’ll be back after the 10 days. He said the right decision was made to step back now rather than trying to power through it at this point.
“You don’t want to give that impression that you don’t want to pitch, you don’t want to fight through stuff. That’s definitely not the way I am and the way I’ve been in my career. So to miss starts, it’s something that I don’t do. It’s a little tough, but It was something I didn’t want to keep lingering or keep getting worse,” he said.
Mancini update: Mancini, who suffered a left elbow contusion when hit by a pitch yesterday in Oakland, still expects to be back in the O’s lineup soon. But he won’t start tonight. Mancini left yesterday’s game when plunked in the first inning by A’s right-hander Chris Bassitt.
“It actually felt a lot better than I expected it to this morning,” Mancini said this afternoon. “I’m not sure of the exact timetable. I’m hopeful for tomorrow. It could be maybe a couple games. I’ll see how it’s feeling tomorrow. Obviously, I still don’t have full motion in it and it’s still pretty swollen, but for being hit on the elbow, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be.
“I’ve got a pretty good feel for if I can go or not and I always want to go out there and play, but a lot of times too, you want to be careful and not go out there. You don’t want your swing to change. You don’t want to make up for something bothering you. So, yeah, I’m hopeful that tomorrow I will be able to swing the bat just fine and be good to go. We’ll make that call together.”
The return of DSJ: Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. has rejoined the Orioles, returning from his brief two-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Norfolk and activated off the 10-day injury list. He went 1-for-8 with a homer for the Tides. He’s batting fourth and playing in left field tonight.
Smith’s last game was on June 6 when he crashed into the wall in Texas and went on the concussion injured list. In 59 games, Smith is batting .249/.296/.462 with 11 doubles, two triples, 11 homers and 41 RBIs.
“Feels good to be back here with the guys,” Smith said. “Rehab went well so, I felt pretty normal down there so I feel ready to go today. It was very different (dealing with this). I had to just rest, like, I’m so used to moving all the time. I had to sit down and I couldn’t really be in light areas, I had to be in dark rooms, just to calm my headache down, so I just prayed for it to go away. It was really getting annoying at that point. But, things happen for a reason. So I was just being patient with it and taking my time.”
Smith said it took seven to 10 days before he felt clear-headed again. Did he have to overcome any mental hurdles when playing with Norfolk?
“I kind of was back to normal once I got out there. I kind of got tested a couple of times. Caught a couple of balls near the wall again. I was being more cautious of running into walls and playing it more safe. But I played pretty normal I’d say.”
He added that he won’t play with caution now and is not going to be playing it safe when the game starts tonight.
“I mean, I’m going to play my game regardless,” said Smith. “I’m not going to think about getting hurt again. That’s when you do get hurt. I’ll just go out and have fun. Yeah, I’m going to play hard, but play smart at the same time.”
The Orioles roster moves today including designating pitcher Dan Straily for assignment and placing Means on the IL. Along with Smith’s return, right-handed reliever Evan Phillips rejoined the team for his fifth 2019 stint with the club.