The Orioles have had a wildly successful 2023 campaign, with an 84-51 record that places them 2.5 games ahead of the Rays in a highly competitive AL East division. Despite that success, the club’s clear Achilles heel throughout the season has been the starting rotation, which has produced just 8.3 fWAR this year, 19th in the majors and only better than San Francisco among clubs currently in playoff position. While the club added right-hander Jack Flaherty at the trade deadline to bolster their staff, he’s struggled to a 6.41 ERA in 19 2/3 innings of work with Baltimore.
Given this, it should be a major relief to Orioles fans that left-hander John Means may be nearing a return to the big league club. MLB.com’s Jake Rill relays that manager Brandon Hyde indicated to reporters that Means will make another rehab start with Triple-A Norfolk but could be available to join the club’s big league rotation following that. Means, of course, hasn’t pitched since April 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery but sports a 3.72 ERA and 4.59 FIP in 353 1/3 innings of work since the start of his rookie campaign back in 2019. If the 30-year-old lefty can recapture his steady, mid-rotation performance from prior to his surgery in time for the postseason, he’ll surely be an asset to a rotation that figures to include right-handers Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, and Kyle Gibson.
More from around the AL East…
- Sticking with the Orioles, closer Felix Bautista hit the injured list with “some degree of injury” to his UCL last week, though since then specifics regarding his situation have been sparse. Hyde provided an update regarding Bautista to reporters this afternoon, with Rill relaying that the club is waiting for inflammation in Bautista’s elbow to go down before deciding on next steps. While Bautista already underwent an MRI, Rill notes that more tests could be in the 28-year-old’s future as the club tries to determine the best course of action for their breakout relief ace.
- Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo exited today’s game against the Royals due to what the club termed as hamstring tightness. Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe caught up with Verdugo following the game and the 27-year-old downplayed the severity of the issue, suggesting that he “felt a little something” in his hamstring during the sixth inning and that it should be taken care of with a day or two of rest. Should Verdugo miss more time than that, the club has Wilyer Abreu, Cedanne Rafaela, and Rob Refsnyder as options to fill out the outfield alongside Adam Duvall and Masataka Yoshida.
- The Rays recalled rookie starter Taj Bradley today, with the 22-year-old hurler taking the place of the recently-injured Jason Adam on the active roster. Bradley’s first sixteen starts with Tampa were something of a mixed bag; while the youngster dazzled with a 30% strikeout rate against a 7.9% walk rate, his 5.67 ERA in 74 2/3 innings left a great deal to be desired in terms of both results and volume. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Bradley’s BABIP allowed was the sixth-highest figure in the majors among pitchers with at least 70 innings of work this year, while his strand rate was tenth lowest. That combination indicates some degree of bad luck in Bradley’s results, though a whopping 17.3% of his fly balls leaving the yard for home runs serves as an indicator that not all of his struggles have been pure misfortune. Bradley will look to end his rookie campaign on a high note as a member of the rotation alongside Tyler Glasnow, Aaron Civale, Zach Eflin, and Zack Littell.