Millwood unfazed by tough O's debut
Veteran ace knows strong start to season is primary goal
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Before you look at Saturday's box score, Orioles starter Kevin Millwood wants you to know he didn't feel nearly as bad as he looked out on the mound at the Tigers' Joker Merchant Stadium.
"I mean, I'm sure no matter what I say, people are going to worry about it and talk about it," Millwood said of his Grapefruit League debut, in which he yielded six runs on seven hits and one walk while recording just two outs. "But I use this time to get ready, and I try to get my pitches to a level where they're ready for Game 1 [of the season]. And if I go out on a day like [Saturday] and get beat around a little bit working on something, you know, then I don't care. [I'm] just trying to get better."
Millwood said his focus on Saturday was on fastball command and improving his changeup, which the veteran considers his fourth-best pitch. Millwood's command was spot on early. Of the 11 batters he faced, five didn't see a ball. And while four of those five reached base and three of them went on to score, Millwood wasn't fazed by his final line.
"I felt like I made some good pitches," Millwood said of the 30-pitch outing. "I got a little bit [better] on my changeup, gained a little ground on that, and next time I'll work on something else. And hopefully, it won't go the same way it did [on Saturday]." The Tigers caught on to Millwood's fastball-changeup routine early, with Clete Thomas taking the fifth pitch of the game over the center-field fence. One out later, Magglio Ordonez started a string of four straight hits, including a double by third baseman Don Kelly. Alex Avila added a sacrifice fly, and after a balk advanced Don Kelly to third, Scott Sizemore drove him in with a single to center. Millwood then issued a walk to No. 9 batter Ramon Santiago and allowed Thomas his second hit of the inning before manager Dave Trembley came out to the mound to replace the starter with Matt Albers
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Although Trembley said he would have liked for Millwood to have finished the inning, the Orioles' skipper was all for the veteran using Spring Training to work on certain facets of his game.
"He's got his own routine that he goes through, I've got no problem with that," Trembley said.
"At times, both [the fastball and changeup] were good," Millwood said. "Sometimes they hit them, even when they were good. Not a whole lot you can do."
If Millwood sounds unusually calm, it's because he's done this spring thing before. Entering his 14th Major League season, Millwood was signed by Baltimore as much for his experience as for his ability. The 35-year-old is coming off the best season (13-10, 3.67 ERA) of his four-year run in Texas, where he also served as mentor to a young Rangers staff. With the Orioles, Millwood will be asked to do much of the same, this time with the likes of Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman, all of whom are under the age of 25.
"The thing about Millwood is, he doesn't want to be treated than anyone else," Trembely said prior to Saturday's game. "He wants no special favors, he wants no special attention. He took the bus [with the team on Saturday morning]. He's a pro."
And Millwood's wise enough to know how best to prepare for the rigors of a full Major League season.
"[What] I did [Saturday] was I went out and [tried] to work on my changeup," Millwood said. "My changeup's my fourth-best pitch, and if I can get it to be just a little bit better, it's only going to help. You know, when I'm going fastball-changeup, it's going to be hard day. But I got a lot of weak contact and came out feeling OK about it."
Projected to be the Orioles' Opening Day starter, Millwood is expected to head a rotation that includes Jeremy Guthrie, Bergesen, Matusz and Tillman.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.