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Orioles’ John Means settles in for second half after ‘surreal’ All-Star experience

Orioles’ John Means settles in for second half after ‘surreal’ All-Star experience
John Means of the Baltimore Orioles warms up prior to the 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field on July 09, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

On the day that one of Gardner-Edgerton High School’s Class of 2011 graduates settled in after an All-Star first half, another got set for his major league debut. One was the fifth overall pick out of the Kansas high school, while the other went in the 46th round and headed to a junior college.

John Means, the unheralded member of a pairing between him and Bubba Starling, became a major leaguer and an All-Star before Starling even reached the bigs.

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Starling, an outfielder the Kansas City Royals took in the first round of the 2011 draft, was called up to make his major league debut in Friday’s second-half opener. Means turned stops at Fort Scott Community College, West Virginia University and every rung of the Orioles’ minor league ladder into a 2.50 ERA that ranks second best in the American League among pitchers with at least 80 innings.

“Everybody has a different path,” Means said. “Things happen. Life happens.

“I’m just glad that both of us get a chance to play at this level.”

Means’ path is a unique one, given he neither made a minor league all-star team nor was considered among Baltimore’s top prospects during his climb through the system. So, enjoying this past week in Cleveland among baseball’s best was a lot to take in.

“It was a blast,” Means said. “It was a whirlwind. It all happened pretty fast. Just being around my family, my fiancee, my friends, it was a cool experience.”

Means said his “wow” moments came in conversations over dinner with players such as Texas Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence and New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia. Sabathia talked with Means about his own time on a rebuilding club in Cleveland before eventually winning a championship with New York.

Means didn’t make it into the game, as Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora told him beforehand he would be held back in case of extra innings. But Means enjoyed the experience all the same.

“It doesn’t faze me too much,” Means said. “Just being there, being in that clubhouse with those guys, it was all the experience that I need. It obviously would’ve been cool to get in the game, but honestly, I feel like being an All-Star’s just about being with all the other guys.

“When they’re introducing everybody, it was just a surreal moment with the flyover and the screaming fans. You don’t really have that feeling too often.”

Later this season, Means might have the opportunity to face his high school teammate. The Orioles host the Royals from Aug. 19-21 before ending the month in Kansas City from Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Means said he hopes for the chance to face Starling in either venue.

“It’ll be cool,” Means said. “Having everybody from my high school that’ll be there, having me face him, that’d be awesome if it happens.”

Brooks to become Orioles’ 15th starter

The Orioles will tie the Los Angeles Angels for the most starting pitchers used this season when recently acquired right-hander Aaron Brooks starts the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brooks, 29, was claimed off waivers Saturday after the Oakland Athletics designated for assignment.

“Always excited for a new opportunity,” Brooks said. “Coming over and helping the team as much as I can, help them get some wins.”

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Brooks, who has spent parts of four seasons with the Royals and A’s, had a 5.01 ERA with Oakland this season. But he had a 3.79 ERA in nine relief appearances, with 18 strikeouts in 19 innings. He hasn’t pitched in a major league game since June 30 and hasn’t started since April 30.

“We’re going to try to stretch him out,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He hasn’t thrown in a while. He’s hasn’t started in a while. We see him potentially joining the rotation at some point. See how it goes. We’re going to get him stretched out and it’s going to take a little while before that happens just because he hasn’t pitched.”

Brooks will be the third in-season starter acquisition to make their Orioles debut in eight games, joining right-handers Tom Eshelman and Asher Wojciechowski. Wojciechowski, who started twice before the All-Star break, is a possibility to start Tuesday’s game against the Washington Nationals, Hyde said, followed by Dylan Bundy on Wednesday.

“[Executive vice president/general Mike Elias] is going to continue to try to bring in talent and bring in guys that have opportunities to start,” Hyde said. “Obviously, we’re going to see what we have.

“We’re going to continue to give guys opportunities and build the talent level in this organization. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for starts over the last 70-plus games.”

Around the horn

Right-hander David Hess, at Camden Yards on the team’s taxi squad Friday, will likely be the Orioles’ 26th man for Saturday’s doubleheader. … Right-hander Nate Karns (right forearm) allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning in his first rehabilitation appearance with High-A Frederick on Friday. … Cedric Mullins, the Orioles’ Opening Day center fielder and leadoff hitter, was moved from Triple-A Norfolk to Double-A Bowie, while outfielder DJ Stewart (ankle) had his rehab transferred from Bowie to Norfolk.

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