Sarasota, Fla. — On the morning of the first day of spring workouts, Orioles left-hander John Means stood among a small crowd of reporters and talked about what it’s like to be viewed as something of a veteran as he enters his second season in the major leagues.
In this period of organizational renewal, everything is relative, so the young man who was the Orioles’ lone representative at the All-Star Game last year, finished second in the voting for American League Rookie of the Year and just might be this year’s Opening Day starter knows that he has something to offer all the pitchers who are in the same situation as he was last February.
“I think I bring a unique kind of look at it because I wasn’t a prospect," Means said. “I wasn’t a guy that came up and they were thinking was going to be here. Just to talk to these guys that have been in the minor leagues and the transition that it takes to pitch in the big leagues. I bring that to it, but I probably will just dish off the leadership roles to the older guys.”
He doesn’t have to walk on egg shells. He’s the best returning starter on the giant spring pitching roster and he knows, as Trey Mancini liked to point out the past couple of years, that some guys have to grow up early on a team so heavily populated with rookies and high-minors prospects.
“Yeah, it’s a little bit different mentality, but I want to come in here still thinking I’m competing … still thinking that I’ve got to go out there and prove something, and that’s usually how I go out there and pitch.”
Manager Brandon Hyde isn’t worried that last year’s surprise pitching ace will take anything for granted, and he endorsed the notion that Means is the personification of the opportunity that currently exists in the Orioles organization.
“I think John Means is a special case, because I think he’s a real mature guy," Hyde said after the workout. “[He’s] ultra professional and has dealt with a lot of things and has had to earn everything that has come his way. Nothing was ever handed to John. I think that’s why there is so much appreciation from him. That’s why he competes the way he does. He has just always had to do that.
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“There are different ways to lead. I think John Means’s story is super valuable to a lot of the guys we have in that room and I’m hoping that guys can learn from that and follow suit.”
With 35 pitchers in camp, it might be easy for some of them to get lost in the crowd, but Means looks down pitchers row in the clubhouse and sees himself at a lot of the lockers.
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys here that can go out there and perform," Means said. “The same thing with me last year, you just never know with guys that don’t have any time. You don’t know what they did this offseason. You don’t know how they’re going to come out. So, I’m excited to get everybody out there and see what everybody’s got.”
Cody Carroll’s comeback
Reliever Cody Carroll, who was acquired from the New York Yankees as part of the Zack Britton deal in 2018, is hoping to win a place in the bullpen after spending much of the past year recovering from back surgery.
“It feels like it’s been two or three years since I’ve been able to do anything, so it’s been long but it couldn’t come quick enough for me,” he said.
It hasn’t been quite that long. Following microdiscectomy surgery and weeks of rehabilitation after experiencing back problems last season, he got a chance to pitch briefly in both the Gulf Coast League and the Fall League, which helped him build confidence that he would be a full go this spring.
“Just for me, it was good for me to get out there and get a couple innings in. Missing a full season is tough, but getting those 10-12 innings in was very helpful towards the end, showing that I’m healthy and can actually do it.”