Orioles pitcher John Means recently suffered a setback that will delay his return from elbow surgery, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Friday.
Means, the Orioles’ opening day starter in 2021 and 2022, strained the teres major muscle in the scapula area of his upper back while doing a nonthrowing-related drill at the team’s complex in Florida.
Elias said the injury means the left-hander won’t be able to return in July, the month the team previously set as a possible return for the 2019 All-Star. It’s unclear how long the muscle strain will set back Means as he recovers from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, but Elias said the hope is that the 30-year-old will return in 2023.
“This is basically just going to add some time to his recovery, or to his return back to the Orioles. How long exactly, I don’t know,” Elias said. “We’re still very much hoping on getting him back this season, but this is obviously going to slow things down and tack on some time before we actually see him out pitching games.
“This isn’t the end of the world or anything, it’s just kind of bad timing, an unfortunately timed muscle strain that’s going to cause him to have to kill some time in his rehab while we wait for that to heal.”
Before the setback, Elias said Means was “flying along” as he recovered from the torn ulnar collateral ligament he suffered last April. Elias added that muscle strain isn’t related to previous shoulder injuries Means has dealt with in the past.
“I don’t think July is in the picture now,” Elias said. “We’ll see after that. We’ll kind of take it as it comes. We’ve seen a couple of these muscle strain timelines can just vary, and I don’t see any reason to start throwing numbers out there. But very, very optimistic to get him back in 2023.”
Despite the setback, a return in August or September wouldn’t be abnormal for a pitcher who underwent Tommy John surgery in April. The July return, Elias said, was an optimistic one based on how well Means was progressing through his recovery.
“I think the bright side of this is this is probably still gonna be within the time frame with what may have happened with the Tommy John [reconstruction],” Elias said. “He was just doing so well that we were getting our hopes up that he was gonna come back on a real quick timeline. But look, these things happen. I’m glad it wasn’t his elbow, or anything kind of throwing related.”
Tate staying on injured list
Means wasn’t the only rehabbing pitcher to recently have a setback. Reliever Dillon Tate, who was recovering from a forearm strain, is remaining on the injured list with a stress reaction in his elbow, Elias said. His minor league rehabilitation assignment ended Wednesday because of MLB’s 30-day limit on such stints.
Elias said Tate is “doing pretty well in the big picture” and that the stress reaction is separate from the flexor strain in his forearm that he suffered in November. In 8 1/3 innings during his minor league rehab stint, Tate allowed 19 hits and had a 14.04 ERA. Elias said “he hasn’t felt totally right” as he’s attempted to come back from the throwing-related injuries.
“It’s just flared up a little bit. Don’t view this as a particularly long-term addition to his rehab, but it’s just part of his process of getting right,” Elias said. “He’s feeling something right now, so we’re keeping him on the IL and we’re moving him from his rehab assignment at this time and hopefully very soon we’ll be able to re-initiate his progression.”
Elias said he doesn’t think Tate’s setback is “overly cause for concern” and that Tate will be pitching in rehab games “pretty soon.”
In other injury news, Elias said Colton Cowser’s left quadriceps injury isn’t “major” and that he expects the outfield prospect to come off the Triple-A IL soon.
Baltimore Sun reporter Hayes Gardner contributed to this article.