New Orioles lefty pitcher Cole Irvin has quickly adjusted to the fact that he woke up yesterday an Oakland Athletic and ended the day a Baltimore Oriole. He said he enjoyed conversations Friday with manager Brandon Hyde and pitching coach Chris Holt. He’s excited to see what the O’s coaches can offer him.
And when Oakland played in Baltimore last September, he took note of the talent in the other dugout that was on its way to 83 wins.
“I’m excited,” Irvin said during a Zoom call with Baltimore media this morning. “The first thing that came to my mind when I got the call, when we faced Baltimore at the end of the season, is how many plays Gunnar Henderson made that series. That kid’s jersey was dirty by the end of the first inning, top to bottom.
“I’m excited. It’s a young group. It’s going to be a lot of fun, there is so much talent. Just the difference from ’21 to ’22 was a visible difference. Excited to kind of get involved with the organization a little more, get to know the fans. There is a lot to be excited about.”
The Orioles acquired Irvin and Single-A right-hander Kyle Virbitsky Friday for minor league shortstop Darell Hernaiz.
During a 2022 season when Irvin went 9-13 with a 3.98 ERA, 1.160 WHIP and finished 12th in the American League at 181 innings, he did struggle late in the year. Irvin posted an 8.23 ERA in five September starts.
“I think it was a culmination of a couple of things, and I kind of dove into that this offseason,” he said. “It wasn’t a fitness issue. But I think a lot of it had to do with getting ready too early (last offseason). The past four or five spring trainings, I’ve gotten up to, like, three innings pitched coming into spring training facing live hitters. A little overworking it. This year I’ve taken the approach to stay in the weight room a little longer and focus more on long toss and the longevity of the season in preparation for October. Because, at the end of the day, we all want to pitch in the playoffs. I want to pitch in the playoffs. That is the most important thing for me, being healthy for the postseason.”
Irvin, who recorded 15 quality starts last season and walked two batters or fewer in 29 of his 30 starts, said that workout routine has him throwing a bit harder heading into the year. Last season he averaged 90.7 mph on his four-seam fastball.
“I feel better this offseason, I’ll say that," Irvin offered. "And I’m throwing the ball a lot harder than I was going into previous spring trainings. That is probably due to my tinkering with the weight program and stuff like that. It’s a pitcher’s ballpark in Baltimore and I’m coming in with confidence. I’ve pitched well in Tampa, pitched well in, I guess, Toronto. Just glad that I don’t have to face Ryan Mountcastle anymore. That guy's got my number since Double-A.
“Let’s just say my bullpens I typically sit in the 83, 84 (mph) range. I’ve gotten my bullpens up to 90. Without trying or purposely trying to throw hard. To me, that’s a noticeable uptick in velocity. That is with less effort and just focusing on some weight training and long-toss routines. Just changing up a couple of things in the offseason and focusing on the 162-game season. Velo is going to be there, I wouldn't be surprised that in spring training I don’t see a five or six (95, 96 mph). I’m a little happy the velo is up a bit. That’s something I’ve never worried about but I am conscious of.”
And he has had some success pitching versus American League East teams. In 11 career games he is 4-4 with a 3.71 ERA and .666 OPS against in the division he's now joining.
In terms of getting to know the O's coaches, that process did start for Irvin in a big way on Friday with Holt.
“We had about a 45-minute phone call last night," Irvin said. "Just getting to know each other, but we did start talking pitching about 15 minutes in, and that lasted the rest of the phone call. I really enjoyed that conversation and there are a lot of good things to look forward to.
“There is probably going to be a little tinkering in spring training, if not sooner, while I’m here in North Carolina training. You come over to an organization, sometimes you don’t know what to expect. It’s nice to be wanted. That comes to the bottom line there, I feel like I’m wanted and this organization saw value in what I can do.
"So I have to be open to some changes and different things and I’m going to be all ears. Going into this season being a little more open-minded on stuff with my slider and curveball that haven’t been necessarily impactful pitches with my repertoire. There are already things we are brainstorming and working on. We’re hitting the ground running already. Hard not to smile and be eager to get to spring training with conversations I’ve had in the last, what, I think, 12 hours."