The worst news that every Orioles fan feared when we first found out that John Means had a sore forearm has come true. The O’s southpaw announced on his Twitter on Saturday that multiple MRIs have confirmed he will require Tommy John surgery. The Athletic reported that the surgery will happen quickly now that the diagnosis is confirmed. It’s set to take place on Wednesday.
This is a disappointing diagnosis, if not a surprising one. Means was the one bright spot on the Orioles pitching staff heading into this season. Over his first couple of starts he had done nothing to make anyone feel any differently. Unfortunately, four innings into his second start of the year, he felt his forearm grab and he came out. Before long he was on the 10-day injured list, seeking second opinions, then on the 60-day injured list. The Tommy John remedy felt inevitable, and sure enough, here we are.
Means will now be out for at least 12 months while recovering from the surgery, so he will still be out of the rotation picture to begin the 2023 season as well. Not every pitcher makes his way back after exactly twelve months. If things go a bit slower for him, he may not make it back until somewhere closer to late July.
O’s fans can hope this will only be a little hiccup in what’s been a fine career for Means to date. He rose from the non-prospect ranks to seize a starting rotation spot early in the Mike Elias era of the Orioles, earning an All-Star bid and finishing as the runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 2019. In 2021, he added a no-hitter to his career highlight reel. Anybody who has managed a career 3.81 ERA while pitching for the 2019-2021 Orioles with pre-fence move Camden Yards as his home stadium has been doing something special. Means was the only good starting pitcher the team had last year.
The one small silver lining here is that there were no expectations for the 2022 Orioles, so in that sense their missing out on him does not impact very much. Unlike when Means had to miss time last season, the rotation has been pitching well without him so far. That probably won’t last, but just as probably later in the season we’ll start seeing pitching prospects like Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez. It would have been more fun to have Means plus those guys. Eventually seeing the prospects won’t be a bad consolation prize.
In the meantime, Spenser Watkins and Chris Ellis are in the Orioles rotation, and the Tyler Wells-as-starter experiment is carrying on through early poor results.
Due to the delay of the start of spring training as a result of the owner-imposed lockout, the arbitration hearing calendar has been thrown off. Means receives this diagnosis without having officially settled on a 2022 salary yet. The Orioles offered $2.7 million, while Means sought $3.1 million. Doing an arbitration hearing while your arm is in a cast is probably even less fun than the typical hearing. Perhaps the injury will lead to a settlement.