Former Orioles left-handed starter Tommy Milone, who was traded to the Atlanta Braves Aug. 30, says he enjoyed a successful stint in Baltimore because he was comfortable in the environment fostered by the coaching staff and players, and he’s confident that the Orioles will be “a force to be reckoned with” sooner rather than later.
Milone, 33, signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles in February and became the club’s Opening Day starter in Boston July 23 because scheduled starter John Means was forced to the injured list with arm fatigue. Milone made six starts with Baltimore, posting a 3.99 ERA in 29.1 innings with 31 strikeouts and just four walks.
Milone had largely struggled from 2016-2019, recording a 5.67 ERA in 255.2 innings as a starter and reliever. But the veteran was the Orioles’ most dependable starter in July and August, giving the club quality innings it sorely needed.
“I think it was just being comfortable. It’s extremely easy to kind of go out and do your job when you’re at a place where you feel really comfortable,” Milone said of his success on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 1. “You like your teammates that you’re going to battle with each day. You like the coaching staff. They have your back. It’s just one of those things where when you feel comfortable, there’s kind of a lot of weight that is taken off of your shoulders, so to speak. And I think that was just the biggest thing.”
Milone was especially complimentary of manager Brandon Hyde, who is in his second year in Baltimore. The Orioles went 54-108 in Hyde’s first year as manager in 2019, and it’s not the first time he’s helped direct a rebuild. Hyde was the bench coach for the Chicago Cubs in 2013 and the first base coach in 2014 — both years in which the Cubs finished last in the National League Central before making the playoffs four straight years.
The 2020 season has brought about more challenges for Hyde than simply overseeing a rebuilding effort. His best player, Trey Mancini, is out for the year due to colon cancer treatments. The season is only 60 games, meaning there are fewer chances to make evaluations of young players who may be part of the club’s future. Any team’s season could be paused at any time due to a positive coronavirus test. And every game is being played in front of no fans, meaning players have to bring their own energy every game.
“It seems that he’s really good at multi-tasking because the kind of stuff he’s had to deal with this year, along with having to run out a lineup each day and manage a pitching staff on a day-to-day basis during the game,” Milone said. “It’s been a crazy year for him and obviously for everybody, but he’s the one that has to make all of these decisions and sometimes it’s on the team’s behalf. It’s just been crazy for him. I think he did an extremely good job of kind of navigating through all that.”
Baltimore began the season 12-8 but has won just four of its past 15 games since then. The Orioles haven’t scored runs of late like they did earlier in the season; starters have struggled to get deep into games all year, and they’ve lost several close games in the late innings.
That said, Milone saw plenty of positives from his brief stint in Baltimore, and he’s confident that the wins will pile up once the Orioles’ well-regarded prospects are all in the big leagues. Milone mentioned lefty Keegan Akin, who’s made three big-league appearances thus far, and right-hander Dean Kremer, who came to Baltimore in the Manny Machado deal in 2018.
“I think that the more that young prospect guys come up and they see big-league pitching and they see big-league hitting on the pitching side, they get more experience and they get better and better,” Milone said. “You’re going to see guys like Akin. I think Kremer is another big name that’s supposed to be up there pretty soon. The more these guys get experience and they get comfortable pitching in the big leagues, I think the Orioles sooner rather than later will probably be a force to be reckoned with.”
For more from Milone, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles