Left-hander John Means joined the Orioles for the first time Monday from Triple-A Norfolk — or more aptly, Sarasota, Fla. — as they looked to cover themselves on the pitching front for the remainder of the season.
The club is in the midst of an unprecedented September pitching shortage even with expanded rosters this month, and if Means is tapped for one of those games against the division champion Boston Red Sox, his path to his major league debut will be a unique one.
“I’d love for him to get his feet on the ground, but obviously, we’re going to need a starter tomorrow and it looks like we’re going to need a starter for Wednesday, too,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Once the season wrapped in Norfolk on Labor Day, Means said he went home to Kansas City, and two weeks in, was sitting on the couch when he got a call from director of minor league administration Kent Qualls asking what he’d been up to.
“I’d been throwing every other day just in case, making sure,” Means said. “So he said, ‘Can you go to Florida and get warmed up a little bit?’ Of course, I was like, ‘Sure,’ and here I am.”
Means, 25, spent most of this year with the Tides after opening the year at Double-A Bowie, and had a 3.72 ERA over 157 1/3 innings between the two teams, striking out 130 against 32 walks with a 1.26 WHIP.
He said he understood that with a tough end to the season — albeit with a 4.80 ERA in August — a September call-up was withheld for other options, even if he was better previously.
“I was really happy with the season I had,” Means said. “There were definitely some ups and downs. I thought it was pretty consistent for the most part. I didn’t finish the year like I wanted to. I honestly wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get called up in September because I just didn’t finish as strong as I wanted, but I’m glad I can redeem myself here.”
Before that, Means had spent parts of two seasons with Bowie. An 11th-round draft pick out of West Virginia in 2014, he has a career 3.83 ERA in the minors. While not considered one of the organization’s top prospects, Means has been a reliable minor league contributor and made at least 20 starts in each of his full minor league seasons.
“John’s had a good year,” Showalter said. “He actually got better as he went up. I actually thought he pitched better in Triple-A than Double-A.”
While the Orioles have added plenty of pitching this month, they’ve had right-handers Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner (knee) and Luis Ortiz (hamstring) suffer injuries and have shut down left-hander Josh Rogers and right-hander Evan Phillips after they hit their innings limits.
Showalter said Wednesday’s projected starter, Yefry Ramírez, will likely require a couple of extra days of rest to allow a cut on his hand to heal. Cobb threw just four pitches Sunday while dealing with a cut on his finger that developed from a blister. Miguel Castro is also working through a knee injury.
Means, along with right-hander Dillon Tate, had been sent to Sarasota after their seasons ended to begin throwing again in case the Orioles needed them. Tate couldn’t get going again once he was shut down, though.
“Didn’t like the way his shoulder responded to the work and some of the downtime, and getting going,” Showalter said. “Just didn’t like the way he responded to getting started up again. A little sorer than we thought.”
Outside of Means, the Orioles can get length from Jimmy Yacabonis and Sean Gilmartin, should they not be required to pitch Monday.