When Cole Irvin found out he would start the season on the Oakland A’s he had to contain his excitement and couldn’t tell a soul. Opening Day was on his mind all spring and he manifested it into reality while waiting for veteran Mike Fiers to recover from a hip injury.
“I know this is only a temporary thing right now. We have a really good roster and hopefully my job is just an easy pass of the baton when [Fiers] is ready. So the mindset is still the same, execute pitches and show the team what I got and show that I can contribute.“
Irvin started the third game of the four-game series against Houston Saturday and some may have expected him “accidentally” hit batters today due to his inexperience in the majors. By the second inning Saturday afternoon, Irvin had already in fact hit Michael Brantley with a 92-mph fastball in the first and uncorked a wild pitch in the second. Brantley would stay in the game but left in the second inning with an apparent wrist injury.
But what else would you expect after all the tension between these two teams? Sean Murphy was hit by a pitch on Opening Night — one of six hit batters in the series so far — and has been unable to start the following two games. And Carlos Correa who made a dirty play Friday with an aggressive tag on Chapman running to second, basically a football tackle with his shoulder.
Irvin battled all spring with teammates like Daulton Jefferies and A.J Puk for the final spot in the starting rotation when news broke that Fiers would start the season on the IL. Irvin is excited for the opportunity and is aware it’s only for a few starts. But what he does in these two starts may change how he is used in the future.
“I found out right before stretch on our practice on Wednesday and I had to keep my excitement to myself because we didn’t make other decisions at that time. I had to be very reserved and I went to my locker and texted my fiance, texted my brother, my dad and my mom and that was about all I could do. From there it was just trying to wait until I could kinda celebrate a little bit more and have smile on my face because I had to kinda act like nothing happened.”
Imagine knowing all your hard work pays off and you couldn’t even shed a simple smile. It sounded almost like the scene in Pursuit of Happiness when Will Smith gets the job in the end and all he wants to do is scream or hug someone but he is standing all alone in a crowd silently crying happy tears.
Pitching Coach Scott Emerson gave Irvin the news he made the 26-man roster and would start the season in the big leagues pitching against teams like the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, World Series Champions and division rivals that always seem to have drama.
Ramon Laureano slid into first on Friday night’s game and will have to play it by ear when he will be back on the field. Melvin said he tends to heal pretty quickly but it could the a couple days.
Irvin wanted to make a statement in spring training and prove to his new team that he could contribute as quickly as possible:
“My mindset was to be able to execute pitches and show the staff what I could do. I feel like I have a lot of good rhythm right now so hopefully that continues. I am defiantly excited. The opportunity was there. They gave me options out of the bullpen, they gave me options to start. So being able to contribute and with Fiers going down unfortunately, I really hope that he comes back strong. He looked great the other day.”
Melvin said Irvin was coming to a new team and he performed really well in spring and wants to carry that over and pitch well especially after a couple tough games. Melvin also gave a Fiers update:
“Fiers will pitch Monday for Stockton against Sacramento three innings so that will be the start of his rehab process.”
Irvin understands his strengths and will rely on those. He explained the difference between spring training and a regular season game:
“It’s not spring training where you’re trying to show your own team what you’ve got. Now it’s about winning ball games and putting us in a position to win as many as we can. So when we put up runs, I’m going to put up zeros. I’ve been saying that from day one and just trying to limit the damage. If I give up three runs, its three runs and hopefully we are on the leading end of that so the expectation is to competent and win and go out there and dominate.”
Irvin didn’t know who would be behind the plate calling his games when the day he took the mound would come but explained he would be happy with either. He went into a little bit more detail about Aramis Garcia, who is catching Saturday due to Murphy’s injury:
“Whether it’s Aramis or Murph, I am definitely excited to work with either of those guys. I have worked with Murph a little bit in the bullpens so you know we got a good relationship started. And then Aramis, I’ve had him in a couple outings and just a very familiar face now and very comfortable to throw to. [Garcia] just does a great job with understanding how I want to pitch and how we can get outs with what I have that day. So whether its Murph or Aramis, I am really excited to work with either of them as they are both extremely talented and understand how we all like to pitch.”
Irvin was part of the Philies organization and was not pleased with how he performed in the shortened 2020 season. He made a few adjustments over the offseason and already sees improvements. He explained where he was when he found out he was traded and how the A’s organization is perfect for him:
“The day I got traded, I was actually throwing two simulated innings against a junior college in my area. I got the call on my way up there and so the plan has always been to come in strong no matter what organization I was with but when I got traded in a weird way, it was a breath of fresh air. I felt like my clock was kind of running out with the Phillies. Unfortunately things didn’t work out over there as I originally had hoped being the first time in the big leagues. Oakland has given me all the opportunities and they are allowing me to be myself. I am really thankful for this organization to just trust that I am going to make some good decisions on the field and pitch well and pitch to my strengths and get outs.”
New confidence, shifting a couple inches on the rubber and using his four-seam more than he normally does are a few changes Irvin has made. Irvin and Jefferies are very close and Irvin made it clear nothing has changed the relationship and they will still be teammates at one point. They are both big fans of each other and want to see each other succeed.
Alex Bregman, Jed Lowrie and Ramon Laureano will not play in today’s game. Chad Pinder will start in left, Mark Canha in center and Stephen Piscotty will get his first start of 2021 in right field. Melvin said the team is obviously dealing with a couple injuries right now and there is no rush for everyday players to play everyday this early on. The A’s are hoping to get their first win of the season Saturday.