Tommy Milone didn’t sign with the Orioles until spring training was underway. He might be the most unlikely Opening Day starter in team history.
When John Means was diagnosed with arm fatigue, manager Brandon Hyde’s best option was Alex Cobb. However, Hyde didn’t want to rush Cobb, who missed nearly all of 2019 after hip and knee surgery.
He could have picked 35-year-old left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who played with Milone in Seattle last year. Instead, he picked the 33-year-old, who wasn’t even on the Orioles’ 40-man roster until last Saturday. Milone will pitch against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Friday night.
“I don’t know the last time a non-roster invitee made an Opening Day start,” Milone said in a video conference call on Wednesday.
“I don’t know if that’s something that’s in the record books. I’m excited for the opportunity and ready to get going.”
Milone has started 136 major league games for Washington, Oakland, Minnesota, Milwaukee, the New York Mets and Seattle, but never an opener.
“It probably is going to be the only time that it happens,” said Milone, whose career record is 50-47.
The scene at Fenway is going to be much different than what the Orioles would have encountered March 26 at Camden Yards had Covid-19 not delayed the start of the season, reduced it to 60 games and forced it to be played without fans.
“You think of Opening Day, you think of a full ballpark,” Milone said.
“A lot of cheering, a lot of fans. I’m going to go out there, and I’m not going to see anybody in the seats besides a couple of players that are in the stands. It’s definitely going to be different, but either way, Opening Day is an honor, and it’s always something to look forward to, and that’s what I’m doing—looking forward to it.”
In four career starts at Fenway, Milone is 0-3 with a 9.33 ERA. He’s allowed 33 hits in 18 1/3 innings but hasn’t pitched there in four years.
On July 24, 2016, while pitching with the Twins, Milone allowed eight runs, four unearned, on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings
“Not worrying about what’s happened in the past would probably be the best idea,” Milone said. “I think it’s been a long time since I’ve been there. Definitely a lot of new faces.
“It’s not going to help to dwell on anything that’s happened in the past there. I just need to … have confidence in myself and have confidence I’m going to do the job.”
Hyde enjoyed surprising Milone with the news.
“It’s obviously something I didn’t expect, but an honor, anyway.”
Cobb will pitch on Saturday and LeBlanc on Sunday in Boston.
Means could pitch one of the two games in Miami on Monday and Tuesday, Hyde said.
Harvey not likely to start season with Orioles: Hunter Harvey will likely start the season on the injured list, Hyde said.
“It’s very doubtful that he’s going to break with us,” he said. “He’s still got some soreness. Hopefully, he gets healthy soon, and we see him on the mound. He’s a big part of our club. I think the chances him of breaking with us are extremely slim.”
Hyde described Harvey’s injury as being “muscular, and it is in the elbow area. We’re not concerned about it at all. It’s a little tight. We’re just being conservative with him, we’re monitoring him.”
Hyde said the Orioles are making their final decisions on the 30-man roster, but Harvey’s unavailability won’t change the number of pitchers on the roster.
Dillon Tate is also likely to start the season on the injured list because of an elbow injury he suffered in an intrasquad game when he was hit by a batted ball.
There’s still a chance that Dwight Smith Jr., who is on the injured list after he tested positive for Covid-19, could start the season with the team, Hyde said.