The Orioles’ surprising second-half success came in spite of the loss of their top starter, as John Means was knocked out of action just two appearances into the year by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. That procedure occurred in late April, putting him a little more than nine months into his rehab. Means recently told reporters he’s “right on track” in that process, progressing to throwing from 140 feet off flat ground (link via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com). He’s yet to begin throwing anything other than fastballs but indicated he’s likely to throw from a half-mound early in Spring Training.
A specific timetable for Means’ return to MLB action is unclear, as it’s obviously dependent on whether he can avoid setbacks as he further builds into a throwing program. He certainly won’t be ready for Opening Day but should factor into the mix at some point during the season. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explored last week, Means’ eventual return will be a welcome development for a Baltimore rotation whose only present locks are Cole Irvin and Kyle Gibson. The O’s have a number of quality strike-throwers to mix in at the back end but not many pitchers capable of missing bats at a high level. Top prospect Grayson Rodriguez is the exception, and the young righty could get a chance to carve out a season-opening rotation role as a rookie.
While Rodriguez has yet to make his MLB debut, outfielder Kyle Stowers did reach the majors briefly last year. The 25-year-old corner outfielder appeared in 34 games, hitting .253/.306/.418 with a trio of home runs over 98 plate appearances. It was a solid first impression on the heels of an excellent .264/.357/.527 showing through 407 trips to the plate with Triple-A Norfolk. The O’s have Austin Hays and Anthony Santander to man the corner outfield on most days, although the lefty-swinging Stowers should have a path to reps at designated hitter and/or off the bench as a pinch-hitter.
“I think there’s value in being someone that can (adjust), whether it’s being a spark plug in a pinch-hit at-bat or be ready to go when your name is called,” Stowers told reporters (including Kubatko). As to whether he’s on the MLB roster and where he’s playing, the Stanford product noted he’s “not the one who makes those decisions. All I can control is how I play and how hard I play, and the effort I put toward. … Just take care of everything I can control.“
While those kinds of roster battles will be significant stories for the club over the coming weeks, much of the recent attention has been on the organization’s ownership situation. In-fighting among the Angelos family led to lawsuits between Louis, John and Georgia Angelos over the past few months. Those were all resolved yesterday, when the sides agreed to dismiss all claims against one another as part of a confidential settlement.
Dan Connolly of the Athletic explores the fallout of that agreement, pointing out a settlement might pave the way for Louis Angelos to reassume more involvement in the franchise’s operations. The organization’s ownership structure has been the subject of plenty of recent attention, particularly as they negotiate with the Maryland Stadium Authority for a new lease agreement. With their current deal at Camden Yards set to expire after the 2023 campaign, the O’s declined an option for a five-year extension in search of a longer contract last week.
Along with the recent internal squabbling among the Angelos family, the O’s are still embroiled in litigation with the Nationals regarding television rights fees related to their shared Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. In 2019, an arbitrator ruled the network (of which the O’s are majority owner) owed the Nationals around $105MM in unpaid rights fees. MASN appealed that decision, and it has remained pending at the New York State Court of Appeals in the three years since then.
Connolly writes that oral arguments on that are scheduled for mid-March and echoes previous reporting Major League Baseball continues to pressure the franchises for a resolution. The uncertain rights figure has reportedly been the main stumbling block in the Lerner family’s exploration of a sale of the Nationals over the past nine-plus months.