BALTIMORE — Completing an arduous 17-month recovery from Tommy John surgery, John Means had put himself in position to be a significant contributor for the Orioles’ postseason run with his impressive 2.66 ERA over four September starts.
Unfortunately, left elbow soreness will sideline him for the AL Division Series with manager Brandon Hyde making the announcement a few hours before the start of Game 1. Many anticipated Means starting Game 3 in Texas with right-handers Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez taking the ball for the first two games at Camden Yards, but the 30-year-old lefty didn’t feel right after his last mound session, which occurred during Baltimore’s five-day layoff.
“He had a little bit of elbow soreness following the sim game, intrasquad thing we had a couple of nights ago, but we fully expect him to be ready for the next series,” Hyde said. “We felt like he needed a few days off. We feel like he should be ready for next series if we get there hopefully.”
With Means not being part of the 12-man pitching staff for the ALDS, the Orioles are now expected to turn to Dean Kremer and Kyle Gibson to complete the four-man rotation for the series. Former starter Jack Flaherty can also provide length as part of the postseason bullpen.
A 2019 All-Star selection, Means underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in April of 2022 and saw his projected 2023 return to the majors delayed by a muscle strain in his back suffered while he was rehabbing in Sarasota in late May.
“I know he’s disappointed. He threw a two-inning sim game a couple of days ago and didn’t feel right,” Hyde said. “Pretty normal after a Tommy John process, and he’s thrown the ball extremely well. We don’t want to take any chances honestly with it.
“If you put him on the roster, he’s tough to replace — all those kind of things that happen. We felt the right thing to do was give him a few days off and get him ready for the [AL] Championship Series if we advance.”
With the postseason roster reverting to 26 players for this best-of-five ALDS, the Orioles will carry 14 position players, the same group that concluded the regular series. That meant rookie outfielder Heston Kjerstad would remain on the roster over veteran outfielder Ryan McKenna.
Beyond the four projected starters for the series, the Orioles kept eight relievers, a group that includes Flaherty, Bryan Baker, Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe, DL Hall, Cionel Perez, Jacob Webb, and Tyler Wells. Baltimore left inconsistent right-hander Shintaro Fujinami off the ALDS roster.
“If we go to a seven-game series, things might change,” said Hyde about carrying 14 position players. “A five-game series with a couple of off-days in there potentially, you feel more comfortable carrying less pitchers.”