Left-hander Cole Irvin doesn’t have much experience pitching in the American League East. He had one strong start at Oriole Park in 2021 before the left-field dimensions were expanded and hasn’t pitched at Fenway Park, where the Orioles open the 2023 season on March 30th.
Irvin is aware that the Orioles have a number of talented young players. When the Oakland Athletics, who traded Irvin to the Orioles on Thursday, played in Baltimore early last September, he watched one of his new teammates put on a show.
“The first thing that came to mind when I got the call was when we faced Baltimore at the end of last season, how many plays Gunnar Henderson made in that series against us,” Irvin said in a video conference call on Friday. “I think how his jersey was dirty by the end of the first inning, top to bottom.”
Irvin moves from a team that lost 102 games, most in the American League in 2022, to a team that made a 31-game improvement from 52 wins to 83. He’ll pitch to Adley Rutschman and have Henderson playing behind him at third base.
“When you look around the field, you’ve got Adley, you’ve got Gunnar. With the young guys coming up, you’ve got DL Hall, John Means coming back from [Tommy John surgery]. Kyle Gibson,” Irvin said “There’s so much good about this team, about this organization, just to look forward to this season, coming off a very successful season last year
“There’s a lot of potential to turn some more heads in our direction. Coming into spring, I think that’s the goal, to turn some more heads and get some more direction on us, to win more ballgames. I think we have the team, the lineup and the rotation to do it.”
Irvin is also happy to have Ryan Moutcastle on his side. “I’m just glad I don’t have to face Ryan Mountcastle anymore. That guy’s got my number since like Double-A,” Irvin said.
Irvin, who turns 29 on Tuesday, was a fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2016 draft. After pitching parts of two seasons with the Phillies, he was sold to Oakland in January 2021. Irvin was 19-28 with a 4.11 ERA in 2021 and 2022 with the A’s.
He’s eager for a new challenge.
“The division is going to be loaded,” he said. “I’m excited to be in a tough division. That puts us in a good position to be able to make the postseason with how much the division is loaded and to be able to beat up on each other. That’s how it’s going to go. That’s how what happened last year in this division.
“There’s more added talent. It’s going to be a fight to the end. That’s what makes 162 games go past fast, when you’re fighting every single night.”
Last season, Irvin averaged just 1.8 walks per nine innings but struck out just 6.4 batters per nine innings.
“I don’t light up radar guns,” Irvin said. “My job is to get outs and put us in a position to win. That’s all that matters to me. At the end of the day, stats can get blown a little bit out of proportion and we forget what our job is … I’m a competitor. I want to win. That’s all that matters to me.”
Irvin works quickly and is looking forward to the new rules where pitches must be thrown within 15 seconds—20 with runners on base.
“My game’s going to speed up a little bit more,” Irvin said. “That plays well into how I like to pitch. I like to get the ball and go. Sometimes the hitters are stepping out when I’m ready.
“This year’s going to be fun because the pitch clock is going to actually favor my game a little bit more and I’m going to be able to get outs in the way I know how. It’s going to be tough to slow down a little bit with the pitch clock. Pitch efficiency is good, but at the end of the day, it’s about throwing strikes and getting outs and getting your team in the dugout to score some runs.”
Irvin has spoken with manager Brandon Hyde and pitching coach Chris Holt.
“It’s nice to be wanted,” Irvin said. “I feel like I was wanted. I feel like this organization saw value in what I can do, and know how to bring it [out], so I have to be open some changes or some different things.”
For the last two years, Irvin pitched in Oakland, a pitcher-friendly park with plenty of foul territory. Now, he has a new home park that has become more pitcher-friendly because of a left-field wall that is nearly 30 feet deeper and 6 feet higher.
“I love Camden Yards,” Irvin said. “It’s one of my favorite ballparks to visit, and I’m excited to call it home with the left-field pushed back a little bit or a lot of bit.”
Note: The Orioles signed first baseman Curtis Terry to a minor league contract on Friday. Terry went 4-for-45 (.089) in 13 games with Texas in 2021. He spent last season with Triple-A St. Paul in Minnesota’s organization.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB