3:23pm: Manager Brandon Hyde told reporters (including Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun) that Means has a muscular strain in his forearm. The southpaw is headed for further testing to determine if there’s any structural damage, and Hyde said the O’s will be without their top pitcher for “a while.”
2:15pm: The Orioles announced Friday that they’ve placed left-hander John Means on the 10-day injured list due to a left elbow strain. In his place, they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Travis Lakins Sr. from Triple-A Norfolk. Lefty Kevin Smith was outrighted to Norfolk after clearing waivers, thus opening a spot on the roster for Lakins.
It’s an ominous IL placement for Means, who’s been Baltimore’s top (and only consistently serviceable) starter since 2019. The 28-year-old southpaw carries a 3.72 ERA with a 21.2% strikeout rate and a stellar 5.1% walk rate through 353 1/3 innings in that time — including a 3.38 ERA in two starts this season. Means, however, exited his most recent outing due to forearm tightness, which is often a precursor to an elbow injury. The O’s haven’t made any further announcements about the extent of the strain or a possible timetable for Means’ return, though a strain, by definition, involves at least some degree of stretching or tearing.
Lakins, 27, will return for a third straight season of big league work with the O’s. He posted a strong 2.81 ERA in 25 2/3 innings for the Birds back in 2020, albeit with more dubious peripheral stats (in particular, his 11.2% walk rate). He tossed another 28 innings with the Orioles in 2021 but saw the pendulum swing the other direction on his results, as opponents knocked him around to the tune of a 5.79 ERA.
A sixth-rounder by the Red Sox back in 2015, Lakins has spent parts of three seasons in the Majors and compiled a 4.21 ERA in 77 frames, albeit with a sub-par 19.7% strikeout rate and 11.7% walk rate. He’s posted similar numbers in 66 career innings at the Triple-A level as well.
As for Smith, the 24-year-old lefty had yielded just two runs through his first 7 2/3 innings of Triple-A ball this season. That said, he’d also issued six walks against just three strikeouts in that time — a continuation of last year’s troublesome penchant for issuing free passes. Smith didn’t have major control problems prior to reaching Triple-A, but since debuting at that level in 2021, he’s walked a sky-high 18% of the 306 opponents he’s faced. Paired with only an average strikeout rate, those issues locating the ball led him to go unclaimed by all 29 other teams. He’ll remain with the O’s and hope to work out those command issues.