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The best team in the American League is close to getting its rotation reinforced with a former All-Star. Left-handed starting pitcher John Means hasn't made a big-league start since April 13, 2022, a month before he underwent Tommy John surgery on May 11. He's now on his way back and it sounds like it won't be long until he's starting games for the first-place Orioles.

Means has now made three starts for Double-A Bowie, most recently taking the hill on Sunday. He worked four innings, throwing 57 pitches. He only gave up one run on two hits while striking out four. Next up, he'll start on Friday and look to go five innings, according to Dan Connolly. Assuming that goes well, his next start could possibly come with the Orioles, if not another rehab appearance. 

The Orioles enter Tuesday 77-47, which is good for a three-game lead in the AL East. If there is any question they have going toward the playoffs, it would be pitching. They lack surefire ace types, sit 15th in rotation ERA in baseball and the bullpen could stand to be deeper. 

If Means is able to return and resemble his former self, it's a significant boost for the Orioles. He has a career 3.81 ERA (121 ERA+) and 1.08 WHIP. He's capable of pitching like a frontline starter. Plus, adding him to the rotation moves someone to the bullpen and that's a bonus.

The pie-in-the-sky scenario for a playoff rotation is robust: Means at his top level, the good version of Jack Flaherty, the current version of Grayson Rodriguez (2.35 ERA in his last five starts) and Kyle Bradish (3.03 ERA) is solid enough to win the World Series. Of course, there are question marks all over the place and the downside is a bad rotation that gets them bounced in the ALDS. Every team has questions, though, and it's just a matter of everything coming together at the right time. 

For the Orioles, the return of Means is certainly a step in that direction.