The Baltimore Orioles are on the cusp of capturing the top record in the American League and threatening to own the best record in all of baseball. Things are only getting better as John Means returns to the mound following a long rehab after Tommy John surgery.

Means was the Orioles' top pitcher when he went down with his elbow injury in April of 2022. He has worked long and hard to get back to action for the O's. He threw five shutout innings in his latest rehab and will now make a start against the St. Louis Cardinals at Camden Yards.

Means admitted to being nervous ahead of his start, according to Andy Kostka of the Baltimore Banner. The Orioles veteran is still excited to be back, finally reaching the end of a long rehab road to help a team not just in the playoff race but leading it.

“It’s just really exciting,” Means said, via the Baltimore Banner. “All the times during the rehab — all the tough times — are coming to fruition right now.”

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In his last full season, Means posted a 3.62 ERA in 146.2 innings. The Orioles' pitching staff has gotten by but don’t have anyone pitching at a super high level. Guys like Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and rookie Grayson Rodriguez get the job done but the star-studded bullpen has been the primary source of optimism. Expecting Means to be back to form right away isn’t wise but simply having him back is very helpful for Baltimore.

Much of the Orioles' success is due to the hitting core of Aldey Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays and Ryan O'Hearn. However, they’re still going to need pitching help. Whatever Means can provide them will be a positive. At the very least, the veteran being back now means — no pun intended — that he will have a healthy offseason just to work on his game.

The Orioles optioned Joey Krehbiel to make room for Means on the 40-man roster. Unfortunately, they are dealing with yet another UCL injury to a key pitcher, superstar closer Felix Bautista. However, his injury may not keep him out for the rest of the season. They brought back Jorge Lopez as extra depth as they look to capture their first AL East title since 2014.