Orioles manager Brandon Hyde values John Means’ contributions out of the bullpen. He also likes having the 25-year-old lefthander in a rotation that had struggled to push starts deeper into games.
Hyde is committed to having the best of both baseball worlds, using Means in multiple roles while the Orioles launch their rebuild.
It’s not necessarily what they expected out of the 11th-round pick in 2014 out of West Virginia.
Means gained velocity on his fastball, touching 95 mph in spring training and often sitting at 92 mph after living in the upper 80s last summer. His changeup has become an out pitch, as evidenced by his season debut against the Yankees, when Means used it to plow through 3.1 relief innings with only one run allowed and five strikeouts to earn his first major league win.
“Honestly, I’m just happy to be here,” Means said. “I’m just happy to have a role, happy to be in this spot and in this position. I want to have that role of doing whatever they want me to do.”
Means made his major league debut in the first game of a Sept. 26 doubleheader last year in Boston. He allowed five runs and six hits in 3.1 relief innings while mostly tied to his fastball and slider.
Means’ changeup became a weapon after extensive offseason work at the P3 Premier Pitching and Performance facility in St. Louis. He also benefited from sessions with new minor league pitching coordinator Chris Holt.
“It’s nice to see because (my changeup is) one of the pitches I worked on in spring training, and to get some swings and misses, especially with two strikes, isn’t something that I’m used to,” said Means, who also made use of the Edgertronic high-speed cameras that the Orioles brought to camp.
“More of execution and release point. Chris Holt is kind of like the changeup guru. We were working on it a lot in spring training and he was showing me what I was doing wrong with it and what I need to be doing with it and it’s been working well.”
— Outfielder Austin Hays started his hitting progression after spraining his left thumb at minor league camp in late March. The splint was removed from Hays’ hand and he was taking dry swings that lead to tee work, soft toss and live batting practice.
— Low Class A Delmarva righthander Grayson Rodriguez, the club’s first-round pick in 2018, was chosen as the South Atlantic League’s pitcher of the week for April 4-14. He tossed 11 scoreless innings over two starts, allowing three hits and striking out 20 batters.