3:35 pm: Means’ MRI showed no structural damage, Hyde said (via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com). He’ll be shut down for seven to ten days and then reevaluated to determine a more definitive timetable for his return.
11:15 am: The Orioles have placed left-hander John Means on the injured list due to a strain in his throwing shoulder, per a team announcement. Zac Lowther has been recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to replace him on the active roster.
Means left his start last night in the first inning, with the team terming his issue shoulder fatigue at the time. He’s since undergone an MRI, manager Brandon Hyde told reporters (including Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun), although the team has yet to receive the results. For the moment, it seems Means’ IL placement is more precautionary than anything.
There’s little reason for the O’s to risk more serious injury to their staff ace until they specifically diagnose the problem. Means is amidst a breakout season, having pitched to a 2.28 ERA over his first twelve starts (71 innings). The lefty’s underlying metrics don’t quite support that level of run prevention. Means’ 25.7% strikeout rate is above-average but not elite, and he’s given up a somewhat alarming 13 home runs.
Even if he doesn’t continue to keep runs off the board at quite this level, there are reasons to believe he’s taken legitimate steps forward. The southpaw’s always been a quality strike-thrower, and his 4.9% walk rate remains stellar. Means is also missing bats at a strong 14% clip, a career-best mark, thanks largely to one of the sport’s best changeups.
As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explored this week, that makes him one of the more interesting trade candidates in the league. The Orioles are certainly not contending this season, and it’s difficult to see a path to the playoffs next year. There’s a case to be made for the O’s to move Means this summer. If his current issue proves to be minor, he’d certainly draw plenty of interest from contending clubs, and today’s IL placement serves as a reminder about the potential injury risks associated with building around any pitcher. On the other hand, Means is controllable through 2024, and the Orioles certainly hope to compete before that point. If he returns in a relatively short amount of time, Means will be among the most interesting players to follow in the coming weeks.