Millwood gets O's Opening Day nod
As expected, veteran called on to lead young starting staff
SARASOTA, Fla. -- It's been discussed and speculated since Kevin Millwood officially became a Baltimore Oriole last Dec. 9.
Prior to Monday's game, it became official: Millwood will get the ball for the O's Opening Day game on April 6 against the Tampa Bay Rays.
"It was an obvious choice for us," manager Dave Trembley said. "[Millwood is] an experienced guy -- a guy that we're counting on to set the tone for us not only on Opening Day, but throughout the season."
When Millwood was first acquired -- via a trade that sent reliever Chris Ray and cash to the Texas Rangers -- Trembley said he expected the right-handed veteran to be the anchor of a youthful Orioles rotation.
It's a role Millwood has embraced since Day 1 of Spring Training, whether it's by leading drills, taking the team bus or chatting with lockermates and young starters Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.
"It's a lot easier to lead or mentor, or whatever you want to call it, when you are throwing the ball well," Millwood said. "It seems like what you say carries a little more oomph to it."
Millwood will get a chance to do that inside the Rays' home confines of Tropicana Field.
Millwood is 2-2 with a 6.16 ERA in five career games against the Rays, though his ERA is 6.63 in the three starts he's made at Tropicana Field. In the Texas Rangers' opener last season, Millwood tossed seven innings of one-run ball, and this year's nod will mark Millwood's seventh career Opening Day start.
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"It's definitely an honor," Millwood said. "I don't know that it says you are better than anybody else, but it's definitely a big deal for a team to name you that."
Millwood said he won't have any extra butterflies since he gets "pretty nervous every start" but he did acknowledge that making the start will help take some of the pressure off the O's other starters.
The 35-year-old Millwood has pitched 13 seasons in the Major Leagues and is expected to be followed in the rotation by Jeremy Guthrie, Matusz, Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez. Tillman also remains a candidate for the No. 5 spot, which is expected to be announced on Tuesday.
"[Millwood is] a guy that brings a lot more to the table than just the ability to pitch," Trembley said. "So we're happy to be able to [tab him for the opener]."
While Millwood's official Grapefruit League numbers -- three starts, an 0-2 record and a 12.96 ERA through Monday -- have been unsightly, the veteran has maintained that he is a poor Spring Training pitcher.
After throwing 102 pitches in eight innings against the Rays' Triple-A club on Saturday, Millwood pronounced himself ready to go. He will dial back to 50 or 60 in his final tune-up before taking the mound opposite Rays right-hander James Shields for the season opener.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.