Teammates happy for Burnes to be handed ball on Opening Day

SARASOTA, Fla. – Announcing that Corbin Burnes is the Opening Day starter is like confirming salt content in the ocean or the negative effects of snorting pollen.

Burnes wasn’t acquired from the Brewers to work in a supporting role. The Orioles are holding an ace. He goes on top of the deck.

An elbow injury removed Kyle Bradish from any consideration. John Means might not be ready to pitch in a major league game until late April or early May, since he won’t get any Grapefruit League innings.

Manager Brandon Hyde began Sunday’s media scrum with the Burnes news, which fell considerably short of breaking status. Everyone knew it was coming, like a holiday marked on your calendar. But it still had to be shared.

Burnes was such an obvious choice that the media didn’t bug Hyde incessantly about it. His decision to make it official at that moment froze many of us like a two-strike, 12-to-six curveball.

Teammates also expected Burnes to start on March 28, for the same reasons.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s Corbin Burnes,” said Grayson Rodriguez. “That’s the first thing.”

Well played, G-Rod.

John Means made back-to-back Opening Day starts on 2021-22, and his streak would be longer except he was scratched in 2020 due to a tired arm and underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2022 that created an opportunity last season for veteran Kyle Gibson.

Andrew Cashner started the opener in 2019 because Alex Cobb had a right groin strain. Tommy Milone replaced Means in 2020. Gibson wasn’t necessarily signed to become the No. 1 starter last season, but it worked out that way based on his experience, solid spring and lack of real competition.

Burnes is a different animal, owner of a Cy Young Award and two Opening Day starts with the Brewers. Means can appreciate how special it is to step on the mound the first day.

“It’s an honor to start off the season,” he said. “You get to throw the first pitch of the season. It’s pretty important. I’m sure he’s excited. It’s something you can tell your kids, your grandkids one day. It’s going to be fun.”

So, Burnes had to be the choice, right?

“Yeah, absolutely. That guy’s the horse, for sure, and he’s done it for the last good amount of seasons. I can’t wait to watch him pitch on Opening Day.”

“We needed a veteran leader to come in, lead this staff. I think he’s going to be able to do that, to help me, Bradish, Kremer, all these guys along the way.”

Cedric Mullins
“You sometimes never know. He might have needed that extra day for some reason. You just never know. But for him to get the Opening Day, that’s not surprising. He’s competitive, he’s going to do his thing.”

Austin Hays
“I had assumed he was going to be the Opening Day guy. He’s had 30 starts the last (two) years, finished top 10 in Cy Young the last four years, so I think he’s earned that.”

Ryan Mountcastle
“He’s obvious legit, one of the best pitchers in baseball, and for us to have him on the team is awesome. Yeah, not too crazy of a shock that he’s going to be the Opening Day starter. We’re excited to have him on the team.”

Gunnar Henderson
“Obviously, he’s got a Cy Young Award and a huge amount of strikeouts. He’s one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. Whenever I saw that we got him, I thought he was going to be our top guy and I’m really looking forward to playing behind him.”

Ryan O’Hearn

(pauses with a grin for effect)  “Just look at his track record, what he’s done over the last however many years in the league. He’s one of those guys, one of those top, elite pitchers in the game. So, very excited to have him on our team pitching on Opening Day.”

Ryan McKenna
“Since Day One when we knew that we were getting him, we were all excited. We know what he brings to the table, and I think there’s no better guy who could be out there starting our season. We’ve got a lot of good starters, but health has been a factor for us, too, with Bradish and Means. But yeah, Corbin is a great guy to have out there.”

Cole Irvin
Absolutely. We traded for him to be a No. 1. If Bradish was healthy, I think he probably gets the Opening Day nod just out of the work he put in last year. And that’s just personal opinion. He did enough to get a few Cy Young votes and did really well for us, had a career year. But Corbin is our ace, he should get Day One. And he might have gotten Day One and I could be completely off base, but we traded for him because he is who he is. You’re going to get what you get out of Corbin Burnes, and so, he’s been the same guy every year in Milwaukee.

“I’m not surprised he’s got Opening Day. I don’t think any of us are surprised by that. I’d be a little curious of that conversation was different if Bradish was healthy, but we won’t know. We’re certainly looking forward to Kyle getting back, getting healthy and being part of the rotation, too, but no surprises.”

Players knew about Burnes but had to experience him up close. Had to share a clubhouse, practice field, mound area and weight room. Had to sit with him in meetings or just observe his daily routine.

“Cool dude. Goes about his business. That’s what I like. Ready to go out there and compete and win.”

“He’s super pro. Same time every day he’s doing the same stuff, so I think he’s got good routines, and he sticks to them. It seems like every time I’m in the weight room early in the morning, he’s doing the same stuff over and over again. Seems like a creature of habit and seems like he’s got some good routines and just sticks to them.”

“I talked to him a couple times and he’s a little more quiet than some of the guys, sticks to himself, but he’s a hard worker and seems like he’s always got his routine. Obviously, a really good pitcher.”

“It just seems like he’s the ultimate ace. Just kind of has his head down, goes about his business, but still chats you up and gives you that veteran presence. So, it’s pretty cool being able to see him and just get that experience, because it’s safe to say nobody’s seen a pitcher like him and it’s really cool to be able to play with him.”

“He’s a hard worker, just goes about his business in a super professional way. I feel like he’s always lifting weights or doing something in the weight room. Just explains why he’s been such a horse over the years and pitched so many innings. Nothing but good things and I’m excited to have him as our guy.”

“Just seeing him pitch, he’s really serious about his craft. He knows what he’s trying to execute, he knows what he’s trying to do. He’s confident in his pitches, his sequences. I know he sticks to and he works well with our guys behind the dish. James (McCann) and Adley (Rutschman) have done, as I’ve seen, a good job communicating with him and understanding his plan and trying to know what he’s doing. I think he’s just very confident in what he’s trying to do.”

“Just kind of how he goes about his business, what he does during catch play, bullpens, seeing his pregame routine going into a game. It’s definitely pretty eye-opening, how he’s so determined.”

“He’s so dialed in to what he needs to do. He knows exactly his routine to the second, it seems like. Just puts in good work. Does a great job every day of being the same guy and going out there and doing what he needs to do.”

“He’s extremely intuitive and has a refined sense for what he needs to do to get prepared for the season. To the point that, I haven’t had many conversations with him, but just watching his work, I’ve kind of applied some of his, I don’t even know if the word ‘perfectionism” is the right word, but he has a very detailed sense to his work. I believed that I have very detailed sense to my work, and I think he just added another level to it. He doesn’t throw a pitch in the bullpen where his grip isn’t exactly where it needs to be, and that to me is a refined program. That’s a guy who knows what he needs to do to be ready for Opening Day and for a long season.

“Just conversations with him, he’s certainly dedicated to his work and takes pride in what he does. His sole objective is to be 100 percent ready to go for Opening Day, and you see that every single day – day in and day out. It’s almost everywhere around this clubhouse, everywhere besides his locker, so that’s a good thing.”

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