When Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner made his only previous opening day start, his team beat what would go on to be an eventual division winner as he threw a strong game. It was March 30, 2014 when he started for San Diego as the Padres hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Padres would beat the Dodgers 3-1 to start a year when Los Angeles won 94 games and the National League West championship.
Cashner went six innings in a no-decision, allowing four hits and one run with two walks and five strikeouts on 96 pitches. Now he’ll try to get the Orioles started off with a win against the favored Yankees on Thursday afternoon in the Bronx.
“I always look forward to setting a tone in any series when we open it up,” Cashner said this afternoon after an Orioles workout at Camden Yards. “For me, it’s continue what I’ve been working on this spring. I think there’s a different vibe in the room this year for sure. I think it is a little more relaxed kind of atmosphere and I think you’ll see some guys play the way they are capable of playing.”
Cashner will make the start because right-hander Alex Cobb was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained right groin. The Orioles hope Cobb will be activated on the first day he is eligible, Thursday April 4, for the home opener versus the Yankees.
So any excitement Cashner is feeling about getting the start in the opener is tempered somewhat by how it came about.
“It is definitely a bummer for him and I know he was looking forward to it. But this will be my second one and I’m excited for it. I’ll have some family in town and I get to kick off baseball,” Cashner said.
Cashner is also kicking off what he hopes will be a second O’s season that turns out better than his first. He went 4-15 with a 5.29 ERA in 2018, one season after going 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA for Texas.
“For me, the biggest thing is just health. I know I can pitch here. It’s health,” he said after a season when he went on the disabled list twice. “You might be pitching through things you might not normally, but it’s taking the ball for your teammates no matter how you feel. Going out there and trying to produce.”
As most pitchers attempt to do on the first day every year, he’ll try to make opening day just like any other start - as much as he possibly can.
“It is just more about going through your routine,” said Cashner, who is 2-3 with a 3.18 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees. “Staying structured with your day and just enjoying the whole thing and taking it all in. The last one I had was at home in San Diego and definitely different pitching in front of the home crowd, and I look forward to being the opposition at Yankee Stadium.”
In Baltimore this year, Cashner is reunited with Doug Brocail, his pitching coach in Texas in 2017, when he ranked ninth in the American League in ERA.
“It’s great,” Cashner said. “He’s definitely a father figure for me. You know, just the amount of conversation we can have in a day. Whether it’s talking about stuff off the field or talking baseball. He knows my mechanics. When we were in Lakeland playing the Tigers, it was probably one of the worst bullpens I’ve ever had before a game. He told me one thing. I fixed that one thing and went out and, ‘Whoa, there it is.’ He picks up on the small details that can make me better.”
So can this different vibe in the clubhouse translate into wins? Will it help the Orioles starting Thursday?
“Well, the goal is always to compete,” Cashner said. “I think there are definitely some younger guys in here that are going to need to find their way. There will be some ups and downs. But hopefully some of the older guys in here can pick them up when they are down and we can jell as a team.”