Division Series - Texas Rangers v. Baltimore Orioles - Game One
Rob Tringali

The Orioles hit spring training with sky-high expectations and quite an excited fan base after 101 wins and the recent addition of Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes. Unfortunately, some news Thursday morning puts a bit of a damper on those zealous feelings. 

Lefty starter John Means is about a month behind in his throwing program, which means his presence in the opening-day rotation is a question mark as he looks to make a full recovery from his 2022 Tommy John surgery (via Rich Dubroff), star infielder Gunnar Henderson has an oblique strain and will be multiple weeks behind (Dubroff) and -- the big news here -- No. 2 starter Kyle Bradish will start the season on the injured list due to a sprained UCL (Dubroff). 

Means, 30, worked 146 2/3 innings in 2021 and the Orioles are probably hoping for a similar output here in 2024 after he missed most of the last two seasons due to his torn UCL and ensuing surgery/rehab. He came back to make four starts late last season, posting a 2.66 ERA and 0.72 WHIP in 23 2/3 innings. He didn't throw in the playoffs and it appears his being behind this spring is related to being held back in the ALDS, so it's possible there was still some residue in recovering from the surgery. 

Henderson won Rookie of the Year and a Silver Slugger last season while finishing eighth in MVP voting. He hit .255/.325/.489 (125 OPS+) with 29 doubles, nine triples, 28 homers, 82 RBI, 100 runs, 10 steals and 6.2 WAR. His issue would be the most worrisome, as he's one of the Orioles' most important players, but with a position player, starting a few weeks behind in spring training isn't nearly as alarming as these pitching issues. In all likelihood, this won't make a ton of impact on the season, barring a setback. 

The Bradish news is the worst here, as noted. He finished fourth in Cy Young voting last season after going 12-7 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 168 strikeouts in 168 2/3 innings. The UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) is the one that is repaired with Tommy John surgery when it's torn. Even just seeing those letters attached to a pitcher's name is jarring. 

It's entirely possible that Bradish rehabs around the sprained UCL and rejoins the rotation a few weeks into the season. It's also possible this lingers, gets worse, and he eventually undergoes Tommy John surgery. We've seen it before. That has to be the fear right now, but we'll trust the Orioles' medical staff. 

Without Bradish and Means, the Orioles' rotation would be headed up by star righty Burnes followed by promising right-hander Grayson Rodríguez. Rigthy Dean Kremer is next, but then it gets murkier, likely with righty Tyler Wells and lefty Cole Irvin

Bradish and Means could still figure very prominently this season and help give the Orioles one of the best rotations in baseball. It was just a bad news morning in Oriole Land.