Eleven days ago, the Orioles announced that John Means would be their Opening Day starter. That plan lasted for about a week before we found out that Means is battling “dead arm,” putting his status in doubt. On Tuesday afternoon, they made it official that a different left-handed pitcher would get the Friday start in Boston: Veteran lefty Tommy Milone.
Milone, 33, is not someone who you could have predicted over the offseason for any Orioles rotation spot, let alone the Opening Day spot, because he didn’t sign with the team until February 14. Between spring training and summer camp, he’s apparently done enough that the O’s feel like he’s their best option.
This will be the first career Opening Day start for Milone. Manager Brandon Hyde told O’s reporters that Milone’s reaction to the news was “priceless.” It’s got to be exciting for a guy who’s about to play for his seventh team since 2014 to get this chance, even if it’s in unusual circumstances for a team that “everyone” already knew would be bad that is now measurably worse because of the absence of the guy Milone is replacing.
The good news is that Means shouldn’t be gone for long. Hyde also told reporters that Means played catch today and will “be back out there” after a few days. If Means is in good shape to just start the fifth game instead of the first game, that won’t be too bad.
The last time that Milone spent a full MLB season in a rotation was 2015, when he posted a 3.92 ERA in 24 games with the Twins. Since then, he’s bounced from there to the Brewers to the Mets to the Nationals to the Mariners, before landing in Baltimore on a minor league contract this spring. Last season with the Mariners, Milone pitched in 23 games, with six starts, with a 4.76 ERA and 5.00 FIP over 111.2 innings.
With Means developing the arm fatigue after the O’s had started lining up their rotation, there were really only so many choices to make as far as who to replace him for Opening Day. If they had decided instead on Wade LeBlanc or Asher Wojciechowski, there wouldn’t be much different of a reaction to this happening.
In a baseball season that was marked by strangeness since long before it ever began, this is just one more strange thing for the pile. Best of luck to Milone on Opening Day and any other day he starts.