This spring, Tommy Milone was just looking to earn a roster spot on the Baltimore Orioles, perhaps even pitch well enough to possibly earn an opportunity in the back end of the starting rotation.
Expectations were tempered.
Milone, 33, joined the club as a non-roster invitee in February and he had to work his way up the depth chart. He quietly went about his business, and his work ethic caught the attention of Orioles manager Brandon Hyde.
Now, Milone is poised to start Opening Day against the Boston Red Sox July 24 in place of John Means, who is battling arm fatigue. Means was placed on the 10-day injured list July 23.
“It’s obviously something I didn’t expect coming in, but an honor anyway,” Milone said. “I’m excited for this opportunity and like I keep saying, I’m ready to get going and get it started.”
Milone pitched for six major-league clubs prior to joining the Orioles. This will be the first time he starts on Opening Day. Throughout his nine-year career, Milone appeared in 174 games, including 136 starts. He has gone 50-47 with a 4.47 ERA, 648 strikeouts, 212 walks and a 1.32 WHIP. He went 4-10 with a 4.76 ERA with the Mariners last season, mostly as the long man after an opener.
Milone made a solid first impression in Sarasota, Fla., during spring training and then performed well this past month to earn the opportunity to open the tardy and abbreviated regular season. The timing of his preseason appearances worked in his favor.
“The bottom line with Tommy is that he’d just be getting one extra day of rest, so we keep everybody on regular rest,” Hyde said. “I didn’t want to bring anybody back short. In this kind of unusual space and time when we only had a short time to get these guys ready, they’ve done an amazing job of getting ready.
“We just didn’t want to take the chance of bringing back somebody on short rest, and we felt that Tommy was just one day away. So he’s going to have five days before his start. It just works out for us in that way.”
Milone has traditionally struggled against the Red Sox. In five career starts (23.1 innings), he’s gone 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA and 2.06 WHIP. Fenway Park has been especially unkind, where he has allowed 26 runs in 18.1 innings.
Those struggles are far from his mind as he prepares for one of the biggest milestones of his career.
“I think probably not worried about what happened in the past would be the best idea,” Milone said. “It’s not going to help anything to dwell on what’s happened in the past there, so I just need to take what I’ve been doing here, what I’ve been successful with in the past couple years now, take it into there and have confidence in myself that I’m going to do the job.”
Milone is just eager to keep this improbable story going. He’s certainly provided some valuable lessons in perseverance.
“I don’t know the last time a non-roster invitee made an Opening Day start,” Milone said. “I don’t know if that’s going to be something that’s in the record books.”
Harvey Starting Season On IL
The resurgence of Hunter Harvey will have to wait a while longer.
The Orioles reliever will start the season on the 10-day injured list with elbow soreness.
“That’s very doubtful that he’s going to break with us,” manager Brandon Hyde said prior to the club officially placing Harvey on the injured list. “He’s still got some soreness and hopefully he gets healthy soon and we see him on the mound. He’s a big part of our club. I think the chances of him breaking with us are extremely slim.”
Harvey was expected to compete for the job as closer after a strong finish to last season. The hard-throwing right-hander appeared in seven games (6.1 innings) and allowed just one run and three hits with 11 strikeouts and four walks. Harvey posted a 1.42 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, and the expectations remain high for this season … eventually.
“It’s something where he is progressing, is feeling better and hopefully he’s with us soon,” Hyde said.
In addition to Harvey and Means, right-hander Dillon Tate will also begin the season on the injured list.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles