The road back: John Means has solid rehab start for Aberdeen

ABERDEEN - The Orioles would desperately love to get their ace back on the mound. And lefty John Means today took a big step toward heading back to the Orioles rotation.

And he looked good doing it.

Throwing all of his pitches, including a fastball that touched 94 mph, Means pitched two innings this afternoon for the high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds against the Brooklyn Cyclones at Ripken Stadium. It is the first of what Means said is expected to be three rehab starts at three levels before he rejoins the Orioles.

Means allowed a second-inning solo homer, but otherwise retired all six batters he faced. He threw 13 pitches in a 1-2-3 first inning with two swinging strikeouts, throwing 10 strikes. His fastball worked from 90 to 94 mph, according to a scout’s gun, with his curveball at 76 mph and slider ranging from 81 to 85 mph.

Means got the first out of the second and then second baseman Luke Ritter fouled off a pair of 2-2 pitches before hitting a solo homer (No. 10 for him) to center. Means then got the next two outs on one pitch each. So he threw 14 pitches, 10 for strikes, in his second inning. He got seven swings and misses on a couple of different pitches. And he built his pitch count up to around 50 by throwing more in the bullpen.

So this outing was a success.

Thumbnail image for Means-Throws-Black-Buffalo-Sidebar.jpg“I felt good. I felt healthy and that’s all that manners,” Means said during an in-person interview outside the IronBirds clubhouse. “Thought the changeup, slider was good. Fastball command was eh, but, you know, for the most part it was good.”

I asked Means about the buildup during his rehab to get to this point.

“Just a lot of me losing my mind down in Florida,” he said with a laugh. “I played catch every other day for a couple weeks and then I threw one live BP before I came up here and it felt good, and everything has been checked off.”

Means’ last outing for the Orioles ended after he recorded just two outs, allowing two runs in Baltimore on June 5 against Cleveland. Then he went on the injured list with a strained left shoulder.

At the time of that injury Means was 4-2 with a 2.28 ERA in 12 starts. He then ranked second in the American League and sixth in the majors in ERA, third in the AL in batting average against and first in WHIP at 0.831.

His strong season included his no-hitter on May 5 at Seattle when he walked none and fanned 12 batters, pitching the sixth no-hitter in Orioles history.

Now Means hopes the issue with his left shoulder remains to be not a serious, more longer-term thing. He’s had similar issues in the past.

“I think it kind of stems from that,” he said, meaning similar to what he has felt in previous seasons. “Honestly, it’s me needing to take care of myself a little bit more. Had some tightness in the back of the shoulder and I think that’s what it was. Just attacking that I have a game plan now to try and take care of that. I think it should be good from here on out.”

I asked Means if it has been hard to have to watch his O’s teammates on television from a distance.

“It’s just tough not being with the team right now. Good or bad, I miss the guys. I miss being there and I can’t wait to get back,” he said.

Means said it was exciting today to pitch in a game for the first time in a month.

“Yeah, being this ballpark. It’s been a while,” he said.” I think last time I was here was 2014 and it was one of my favorites in the minor leagues. And just to be out here playing competitive baseball, it’s nice.”

Means said the plan now calls for two more rehab starts.

“I go to (Double-A) Bowie here in a few days, five days, something like that, and do another rehab start,” he said. “And then (Triple-A) Norfolk and I should be good.”

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