SARASOTA, Fla. — After six weeks without a baseball in his hand, Orioles right-hander Kyle Bradish began his quest to return from a UCL sprain Friday with a light throwing session.

Bradish, who earned Cy Young Award votes for his breakout 2023 campaign, felt irritation in his elbow during his offseason throwing program in January. After imaging, it was determined he had a sprain and the Orioles administered a platelet-rich-plasma injection.

The early indications are positive, Bradish said, although he will start the season on the injured list.

“Initial kind of results from it feel good, and we’ll see how it goes when I throw today,” Bradish said, adding that he’s “very confident” he can return in 2024. “Feeling really good right now. Take it day by day, trust the process and the schedule.”

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Bradish is a key member of the rotation, cementing his place near the top of the group when he posted a 2.83 ERA in 168 2/3 innings last season. The Orioles may also be without left-hander John Means for opening day after his offseason training program was pushed back. He began throwing Jan. 30 — a planned delay after he missed the postseason due to soreness in his surgically repaired elbow.

“It’s probably unlikely,” Means said of his chances to be ready on opening day. “I understand the process and do the best I can every day and try to be as prepared as I can.”

On Friday, Means was seen throwing from well beyond 90 feet. He also threw off the mound later. Manager Brandon Hyde said the “rough draft” for Means is to have him return in April, “if all things work out.”

At this point, Hyde wasn’t comfortable estimating how many innings Means will throw this year. Means has missed the greater part of two seasons due to Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

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Means and Bradish expressed confidence in the depth Baltimore has at its disposal when trying to replace the pair of starters. Left-hander Cole Irvin and right-hander Tyler Wells are the front-runners for the final spots in the rotation, should both Means and Bradish miss time.

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“We’ll see what happens here in the next month, but definitely giving those two guys every opportunity,” Hyde said. “Wells was one of our best starters the first half last year, and Cole was a quality starter for Oakland for a couple years. We feel confident they both can handle it, and, yeah, they’re going to get as many starts as possible this spring.”

Meanwhile, infielder Gunnar Henderson said he isn’t concerned about his left oblique aggravation. Although Henderson might miss the first week of Grapefruit League action, he isn’t seen as a candidate to miss time beyond that.

Baltimore Banner reporter Danielle Allentuck contributed to this report.

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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