Orioles’ John Means, Tyler Wells to both undergo season-ending surgery for second torn UCLs

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Orioles' John Means, Tyler Wells to both undergo season-ending surgery for second torn UCLs
John Means’ future with the Orioles is cloudy due to his latest surgery. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Both a left and a right arm in the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation need fixing, and it will cost the team two pitchers for the rest of the season.

Orioles left-hander John Means and right-hander Austin Wells will undergo season-ending surgery to repair torn UCLs in their throwing arms, general manager Mike Elias told reporters Friday per MLB.com’s Jake Rill.

It is reportedly yet to be determined if those surgeries will be Tommy John surgery. Both pitchers have undergone the dreaded procedure — Wells in 2019, Means in 2022 — but there could be other options, such as the brace surgery that has become increasingly favored in recent years. A second Tommy John surgery is notoriously difficult to come back from, with more intense rehab and a longer timeline to return to the mound.

The Orioles entered Friday with a 35-19 record, two games back from the first-place New York Yankees, and the third-best starting pitcher ERA in MLB with a 3.03 mark. Means and Wells combined to start only seven of those 59 games.

Without them, Rill speculates the Orioles will move forward with a rotation of Corbin Burnes, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, Cole Irvin and Albert Suárez.

This latest news is a brutal blow for Means in particular, and could mean the end of an Orioles tenure that started with such great promise.

Means looked like a real building block for Baltimore back in 2019, a time when building blocks were hard to come by for the tanking organization. He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting with a 3.60 ERA in 155 innings, a welcome surprise given that the soft-tossing southpaw was an 11th round and peaked at No. 29 on MLB Pipeline’s Orioles prospect list.

He proceeded through the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and threw a no-hitter in May of 2021, but went on the injured list a month later with a shoulder issue, the first of a series of health problems that saw him undergo TJ surgery two years ago.

Now the 31-year-old Means is sidelined for the rest of the season and will almost certainly have to sit out a massive chunk of 2025 as well, with no guarantee that he’ll be the same when he comes back. It’s very bad timing considering he’s set to hit free agency this offseason.

Players in this situation have a few options. They can ride out the rest of their time with the team, hit free agency and hope someone is willing to give them a two-year deal, with the understanding that the hopefully healthy second year is what the team is paying for. They can also go into free agency and wait until they’re healthy to find a team.

There’s also the possibility of a cheap extension, should the Orioles want to keep Means around and hope he can still help them push for a World Series. Given the team’s stocked farm system, though, it might not be a good fit.

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