Once a long shot to make the roster, Means is proving himself


(Click link above to watch the video of our former player getting another win for the Orioles)

By Joe Trezza

ST. PETERSBURG — For a young staff that’s allowed the most runs in the Majors over the season’s first month, John Means has been a revelation. Now he is being rewarded.

Though Alex Cobb’s return from the injured list will temporarily push Means back into a relief role, the Orioles are brainstorming creative ways to keep the lefty in their starting mix, particularly after another big effort in Thursday’s 6-5 win over the Rays. The precise arrangement remains unclear, and subject to change. But, simply put, Means has been too productive in the early going for the Orioles to see him exclusively as a bullpen option.

“We’re not going to go with a true six (man rotation) as of right now, but it’s going to be something we’re going to play with because I do like John on the mound in the rotation,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Obviously he’s pitched really, really well and deserves to stay in the rotation. We’ve got five other starters, so we’re going to play with it a little bit.”

Viewed by many (including Means himself, who says “I’m just happy to be here”) as a roster long shot at the start of Spring Training, Means has proved reliable in a variety of roles since landing a spot on the Opening Day roster. He’s now earned two wins in long relief after two more scoreless innings Thursday, gone unscored upon over two shorter middle-inning stints, and started twice with Cobb inactive due to a lumbar strain.

All told, Means owns a team-best 1.72 ERA over 15 1/3 total innings. Of the club’s six starting options, he leads in both average exit velocity against (86.9 mph) and expected batting average against (.206), per Statcast. Baltimore will enter play Friday with a MLB-high 6.01 team ERA.

“He’s going to make a lot of starts,” Hyde said. “He’s going to be doing a little bit of both roles as we go forward … We’re going to play with the dates, play with the off-days.”

Cobb’s return is officially slated for Friday against the Twins, putting him in line to make one more start before next Thursday’s off day. Hyde said Means’ next start would likely come after that, when the schedule should allow the Orioles to be flexible. They are currently in a stretch of 19 consecutive games. But starting next Thursday, they’ll enjoy three off days, each exactly six days apart. That would seemingly provide several chances to work Means in, while allotting their five other starters extra rest.

Three of their four veteran starters – Andrew Cashner, Dan Straily and Cobb – all see their career numbers benefit in such circumstances.

“I’m happy with how I’m starting the year,” Means said. “Happy with the trust I’ve built. This is pretty ideal for me.”