Orioles news: rehabbing pitcher closing in on major league return

A key reinforcement is closing in on a return to the Orioles pitching staff
Milwaukee Brewers v Baltimore Orioles: John Means of the Baltimore Orioles throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee Brewers v Baltimore Orioles: John Means of the Baltimore Orioles throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers / Greg Fiume/GettyImages

We have entered the final month of the regular season, with rosters expanding by two players to 28. The Baltimore Orioles are ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays by a few games and currently possessing the top seed in the AL playoff picture with an 83-50 record entering play on Friday.

A big reason for the Orioles success has been pitching, with both expected and unexpected hurlers making major strides and turning the Orioles into a heavyweight in both the AL East and all of baseball.

One more pitcher in on his way to a return who is sure to make an already dominant pitching staff even better. Left-handed starting pitcher and ace of the rotation John Means, who hasn't pitched in a major league game since April 13, 2022 against the Milwaukee Brewers, is on the cusp of a return to the major leagues.

Orioles pitching staff set to get better with impending return of John Means

The best pitcher on the Orioles before he required Tommy John surgery, Means dealt with recovery from the surgery and a left teres major strain that pushed his expected return date back from midseason to early September.

On Thursday night against the Triple A Worcester Red Sox, Means made his fifth rehab start and second with the Norfolk Tides. The lefty was brilliant, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out six hitters in five innings, throwing 53 strikes out of 86 pitches as the Tides combined for a three-hit shutout of the Red Sox.

The most important thing to note is the five innings pitched and 86 pitches thrown by Means, both highs among his five rehab starts. There were previous rumors about whether or not Means would start games or pitch out of the bullpen, but by stretching him out to this degree, one can assume Means will return as a starting pitcher.

Across his five starts between Double A Bowie and Triple A Norfolk, Means has allowed six runs in 18 2/3 innings, with four coming in one appearance. He's struck out 18 hitters and has a 1.02 WHIP, right in line with a 1.082 career WHIP in the majors for Means.

The question becomes who the odd man out will be in the rotation when Means does make his return. Currently rolling with six starting pitchers, a seven man rotation would be unprecedented, so someone will have to go. Cole Irvin, despite having pitched well, appears to be first on the chopping block, but will that result in him going to the bullpen, or down to Triple A to keep starting games?

No matter who the odd man ends up being, there is no denying that the Orioles staff is set to get much better with Means set up to return. As of Friday night, there is no indication as to whether his next start will be with Norfolk or the Orioles, but he's definitely on the cusp of returning.