BOSTON – The Orioles finally set their rotation for Opening Day, which turned out to be the easy part. They might have to decide how they’re going to handle a rainout on Saturday unless the forecast improves dramatically over the weekend.
The temperatures are supposed to rise into the 60s, ruining the fun that hypothermia can bring, but there’s a 90 percent chance of precipitation. They could be off on back-to-back days including today.
Dean Kremer is supposed to pitch Saturday, followed by left-hander Cole Irvin on Sunday. Irvin could be bumped to the series in Texas, assuming the clubs wouldn’t play a doubleheader.
They could try this again in September, whether on a mutual off-day or in a doubleheader.
If that’s the case, Kyle Bradish would follow Irvin on Tuesday and Tyler Wells would close out the Rangers series if manager Brandon Hyde still uses his fifth starter with two breaks in the schedule.
Kyle Gibson would be working on six days’ rest for the April 6 home opener against the Yankees. He owns a career 5.13 ERA and 1.401 WHIP in 41 starts on six days or more.
Irvin has faced the Red Sox only twice and he’s never pitched at Fenway Park. It was 38 degrees yesterday as Cedric Mullins stepped into the batter's box to lead off the first inning, and Irvin would be fine with that, too.
“I’m good with all of it,” he said. “I can use experience pitching in the cold in Oregon and even when I was with Philly, playing in Lehigh Valley to start the year. There were plenty of cold weather moments. I kind of prefer the cold. I don’t know why. I just like it a little bit more. Maybe it’s because I spend a lot of time in the river fishing.
“I’m excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s Fenway Park. For me, I’m an historian of this game, I love this game, and to be able to make my first start of the season with this club in an historical ballpark is pretty cool. Definitely not taking it for granted.”
Globe Life Field probably won’t have the same effect on him.
The Orioles waited until after they broke camp to reveal the order of their starters beyond Gibson and Kremer.
“I really don’t go into the season with too much anticipation. It’s just, wherever I’m slotted in is where I’m slotted in,” Irvin said.
“I know the decisions that are made to put me in the rotation in a certain spot are those decisions. I just prepare to get ready. To be able to pitch in Boston in a divisional game to start the year, that’s exciting, especially with a team that, we have high hopes for what we do. So, I’m excited. It’s going to be a fun year for us.
“I didn’t really know where I was going to be penciled in, but I know that will allow me to have two starts at home this next turn, which, I’m excited to pitch in our home ballpark, too. There’s gonna be some excitement on Sunday, maybe a little bit of nervous energy, but I’m going to use that to my advantage, because whenever I’m nervous, that means I’m enjoying the moment. So, for me, I’m excited about it.”
Irvin was confident that he’d make the club and start. Wells had to fight for his spots.
Grayson Rodriguez was expected to board the flight to Boston, and he wouldn’t be used out of the bullpen. Where this left Wells was one of the major curiosities.
Wells outpitched him. Rodriguez flashed the usual plus-plus stuff and his 19 strikeouts led the club, but he also posted a 7.04 ERA and 1.565 WHIP and didn’t get past the fourth inning, and other data the club accumulated and studied changed its plan.
The Orioles want Rodriguez to stay with them after he debuts. The shuttle doesn’t have a seat for him. And Wells earned his place on the major league staff.
“I was, obviously, extremely happy whenever they told me,” Wells said.
“The mindset that I tried to have all spring training is, regardless of where I’m at on the team, whether that’s in the rotation, in the bullpen, I’m just here to try to help the team win and, hopefully, be able to put together a season like we had last year. So, whatever role they had me in, I was happy to do, but obviously whenever they told me, it was very exciting and kind of a relief, I guess you could say, after all that built-up tension during spring.”
And after different segments of the media checked on him almost daily for updates on how he felt, how he was handling the uncertainty and whether he believed that he did enough to break camp with the Orioles and start for them. I did my share of it.
The in-game scrums after his starts always steered the conversation back to his situation and how he sized up his chances. It had to be done. And Wells obliged while also appearing uncomfortable doing it.
“Well, you don’t ever want to be rude to your teammates,” he said.
“You know it’s a competition, but you don’t ever want to talk about it. You still want to be able to go over there. They’re your friends first, and you sit there and you have a good relationship with guys. So, it’s like, saying that you’re in a competition with your friends is always a difficult thing, but we understand the business and I think everyone took it like a pro and everyone approached it like a pro. We all were pretty close during spring training.”
Note: Governor Wes Moore and his children will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the April 6 home opener.