For the second consecutive season, John Means has been named as the Orioles Opening Day starting pitcher. Manager Brandon Hyde delivered the news to Orioles reporters in his Friday pre-game video conference. Means never actually got to pitch in the first game last year after developing fatigue in his arm late in summer camp, so this move means he’ll get a second chance to be the first pitcher lined up in the rotation.
There was not a whole lot of suspense about this move, especially once the veteran Alex Cobb was traded early last month. Means is the only remaining pitcher to combine some semblance of anticipated quality with some time with the Orioles.
Whether or not Means ends up making the start, this will be the sixth consecutive Orioles season that begins with a different Opening Day starter than the one before it. The five before Means were Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, and Tommy Milone. Perhaps Means can now be the one to break this streak by staying in the picture for 2022 as well. Knock on wood!
Means remains a fantastic story for getting as far as he’s gotten in his playing career. There are not very many 11th round picks who work their way up to a big league club, especially when they didn’t really have a prospect breakout in the minors. He already has an All-Star selection under his belt, plus a runner-up finish for Rookie of the Year, and now he will add an Opening Day nod once he makes the start. Sure, some of that is because he’s on the Orioles, who are not chock full of good players, but most of it is his own work and dedication.
Means turned himself from a non-prospect into a rotation candidate in time for the Mike Elias regime’s arrival and the current front office noticed. He’ll be looking to write off some rough performance in the shortened 2020 season. Although his ERA was about league average at 4.53, he had the FIP of a much poorer pitcher at 5.60, and he surrendered 12 home runs in 43.2 innings.
Is that the real Means, or is the real Means closer to his 2019 performance, when he spent almost the full season in the rotation and posted a 3.60 ERA? Even if the answer is somewhere between 2019 and 2020’s ERA numbers, that’s still a guy who can easily be a part of the next good O’s team. He’ll give the first part of the answer to this question at Fenway Park on April 1.