Shepherd to start Spring Training opener

February 20th, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles announced Thursday that will start the club’s 2020 Grapefruit League opener against the Braves on Saturday.

Lefty will replace Shepherd after a couple of innings.

“I knew coming to camp I was going to have some opportunities to throw,” Shepherd said. I obviously didn’t know when, but I’m super excited to kick off Spring Training [by] getting the ball.”

Shepherd transitioned to the rotation at Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox) in 2018 after a four-year Minors career as a reliever during which he posted a 3.41 ERA over 125 games (224 innings). He posted a 4.2:1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio during that stretch.

An MLB Draft pick of the Red Sox in 2014, Shepherd made his Major League debut with the O’s on Aug. 13 last season. He made his first Major League start on Sept. 17, 2019, and finished with a 6.63 ERA over five appearances (three starts). His last start of the season was arguably his best, when the righty fanned six Red Sox over five innings and allowed just two earned runs in the O’s season finale.

“I finished up pretty strong, I felt like,” Shepherd said. “I kind of took that into the offseason, with things to keep getting better on, and I’m just excited to get out there [Saturday], to get into a game and apply those things.”

Manager Brandon Hyde said Blach will follow Shepherd on Saturday.

Orioles fans can expect to see multiple starters working during the early games this spring as the club aims to stretch out “quite a few guys,” Hyde added.

has made a name for himself with his fleet feet, quick reaction and flashy leather. This hasn’t changed in O’s camp, where one of the team’s newest additions and its projected starting shortstop wowed during defensive drills.

“He’s a special defender; we’ve all seen it for a long time,” Hyde said. “He’s got amazing hands and feet. He puts on a display almost every day out here, and he’s really fun to watch play defense. He’s passionate about his defense and really enjoys his time out there.”

• As the injury bug continued to make its way around the clubhouse, was again held from workouts due to illness.

, who the team claimed off waivers from the Indians on Wednesday, should join Baltimore in camp on Friday afternoon. The talented 25-year-old utility man -- who has played six positions in his two-year Majors career with the Indians and Rays -- is expected to provide depth in camp as the Orioles continue to seek a versatile bench player or two.