The movements were deliberate, meticulous, with his leg kick in slow motion and his arm at a similarly languid speed. But on Monday, John Means threw a baseball. And for the Orioles, that significant step for their ace is another positive note heading into the offseason.
The short video Means posted to Twitter on Monday captured part of his first throwing session since he underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in April. The left-hander has steadily ramped up his recovery from the surgery during the course of the season, working mainly in the weight room before Monday’s throwing session.
In June, while spending time with the Orioles during a series against the Kansas City Royals, the large metal brace he wore on his left arm was gone. By August, his physical therapy focused on building shoulder strength. At that time, Means said he planned to visit the Orioles’ spring training complex in Sarasota, Florida, “sometime after the New Year, and that’s when it really starts to build up.”
A timeline for Means’ return to the rotation remains murky, but he’s expected to come back midway through the 2023 season. Once he does, the 29-year-old will add another option to a rotation that is stocked with highly rated arms. Prospects DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez are expected to vie for places in the rotation, and strong years from right-handers Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish leave them in line for a rotation spot, as well.
Right-hander Jordan Lyles, who led Baltimore in 2022 with 179 innings, has a team option for next season worth $11 million with a $1 million buyout and will be one of the organization’s biggest offseason decisions. And with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias vowing to increase spending, a free agent signing or a trade could also be on the horizon.
Means left after four innings in his second start last season, and tests revealed that his ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow was “about 90% torn,” he said. Means threw all of eight innings for Baltimore in 2022, one year after he compiled 146 2/3 innings with a 3.62 ERA and threw the Orioles’ first solo no-hitter since 1969.
So while the movements Monday were slow, Means throwing a baseball once more is a step in the right direction.