SARASOTA, FL. — John Means first outing of the spring doesn’t look strong on paper.
He threw 39 pitches — 25 strikes — in 1.1 innings and allowed three hits and two earned runs. He struck out three and left the game against the Rays with runners on first and second.
More importantly, Means felt strongly about his first game experience of the 2020 season, one where he enters with the most solidified role of his professional career.
“In spring training you’re not so worried about results,” Means said. “You’re really just worried about how you feel, how the ball’s coming out, how hitters are reacting. I honestly felt really good. I felt the Fastball was there, changeup was there, curveball was there. So I definitely feel better than the two runs.”
Means wasn’t afraid to mix in off-speed pitches at any time during an at-bat and threw a fastball that sat around 92 miles an hour, topping out at 93 on the gun.
His start might’ve gone better if it weren’t for windy conditions at Ed Smith Stadium. A deep fly ball, credited as a triple, got caught in the wind and Orioles left-fielder Dwight Smith Jr. was helpless.
“It is what it is, these winds are howling out here,” Means explained.
Means has a solid role on the Orioles this season, a far cry from last season’s struggle to stand out. The left-hander made the club at the end of spring training, became the Orioles' lone All-Star and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
“This year is a lot different from last year,” Means said. “Last year, my first outing was one inning and it kind of honestly went like that where I felt really good, but I gave up a couple runs. But this year, I’m trying to ease a little bit further back into it. I have a role now, so I’m kind of easing into starting and trying to feel the pitches out when last year I was trying to make a statement.”
He started 27 games last season and threw 155 innings in the most productive 2019 season from an Orioles pitcher. He posted a 3.60 ERA and allowed 138 hits with a 1.135 WHIP.
Last season, he was fighting for his job in the major leagues. Now, he’s got a permanent role atop the Orioles rotation. That’s something he hopes can lead to a more consistent approach in a role that’s decidedly different from the one he held a year ago.
“Just be more consistent,” Means said. “Last year I gave up a home run every game there for a stretch. Just being more consistent, attack hitters and consistency comes with your time in the game.”
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