Orioles left-hander John Means left tonight’s start against the Brewers after four innings, with the team announcing he’d experienced some forearm tightness. That’s always an ominous-sounding development, given how often forearm tightness can be a precursor to serious elbow issues, yet neither Means nor O’s manager Brandon Hyde sounded overly concerned.
Hyde called the early exit “precautionary” when speaking with reporters after the game (via Dan Connolly of the Athletic). The southpaw began feeling tightness in the third inning, according to the skipper, before raising the attention of the trainers after the fourth. Means said it was the second consecutive start in which he’d had some discomfort (via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com) but indicated he wasn’t particularly worried and hoped to resume throwing within a few days.
The team will know more about the issue after receiving the MRI results, although it’s a bit of a relief to hear both Means and Hyde express optimism in the immediate aftermath. Means missed more than six weeks last season after straining his shoulder. At the time he landed on the shelf, he owned a 2.28 ERA/4.20 FIP; after returning in July, he pitched to a 4.88 ERA/5.01 FIP.
It’s too simplistic to attribute Means’ second-half struggles solely to the shoulder issue, but it seemed as if the injury were having some amount of deleterious effect. Obviously, it’s not clear his current forearm discomfort is tied at all to his prior shoulder issues, but it’s at least moderately alarming to hear of Means again dealing with arm troubles.
If healthy, the 28-year-old (29 later this month) could be one of the top arms available on the midseason trade market. Means is controllable through 2024 via arbitration, but the O’s are still firmly amidst a rebuild and reportedly floated him in discussions with other clubs over the winter.
His 2022 salary is still yet to be determined, as he and the Orioles are likely headed to an arbitration hearing after he filed for $3.1MM versus the team’s offer of $2.7MM. The MRI results won’t have any bearing on that hearing, which will be a backwards-looking process based on his pre-2022 body of work.