Burnes suits up in O's orange for first time as teammates welcome new ace

February 15th, 2024

SARASOTA, Fla. -- For the first time in his big league life, toed the rubber in colors other than the Brewers’ blue and gold on Thursday morning.

Burnes put on an orange jersey and an orange Spring Training cap and started his next chapter as a member of the Orioles. During the first workout for pitchers and catchers at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, the 29-year-old right-hander took a mound and threw to Adley Rutschman.

Baltimore’s biggest offseason acquisition -- who was preparing to report to Phoenix for Spring Training at the time he was traded -- has started to get acclimated to his new surroundings in Sarasota.

“A lot of new faces, a lot of new names,” said Burnes, who was acquired from Milwaukee on Feb. 1. “I’ve been telling people, ‘Sorry, it’s going to take me a couple of weeks to get to know everyone and remember faces, remember names.’ But I’m excited to be here. It’s an exciting, young team.”

The other 60 players in the Orioles' big league camp don’t need to learn Burnes’ name. They already know it. The former National League Cy Young Award winner has arrived with a reputation.

He’s a workhorse who racks up innings and strikeouts. He’s one of the best pitchers in MLB. And, most importantly, he’s the ace Baltimore needed at the top of its rotation.

“I’m pretty happy about it. He’s pretty good,” right-hander Dean Kremer said with a grin.

Added fellow righty Grayson Rodriguez: “Obviously, that’s a big name, a special pitcher. It’s exciting. I think it’s really exciting for Orioles fans. It’s exciting for some of the guys in our clubhouse to be able to get to watch somebody like that every fifth day.”

The Orioles’ offseason was mostly quiet until they pulled off the blockbuster Burnes trade two weeks before the start of Spring Training. Their only big move to that point was the free-agent signing of veteran closer Craig Kimbrel on Dec. 6.

At a Birdland Caravan event in January, Baltimore center fielder Cedric Mullins expressed confidence that the reigning American League East champions were poised for more success despite the slow winter. How does he feel now?

“[I'm] looking forward to seeing what Corbin brings to us,” Mullins said. “To not really see what he’s done in person often just because of different divisions, different leagues, everything like that, but seeing the clips of the success that he’s had, it’s going to be exciting to play with him.”

Burnes has faced the Orioles twice, including once last season. He pitched seven scoreless innings at Camden Yards on April 13, 2022, then dazzled for eight scoreless frames last June 7 at American Family Field.

“His stuff is really nasty,” infielder Gunnar Henderson said. “Looking forward to being able to see that for our team.”

There’s a good chance Burnes will start Opening Day on March 28 vs. the Angels at Camden Yards. He has previous experience with the assignment, having started the Brewers’ opener each of the past two years. (Fellow top starter Kyle Bradish is no longer in the running for the O’s, as he’ll open the season on the injured list with a right UCL sprain.)

By the start of the season, Burnes will know the Orioles and his new teammates much better. He’s looking forward to it, considering he can already feel the positive energy stemming from the warm reception to his arrival.

“It’s awesome. When everyone has that same goal of getting to the end of the year, and getting to the World Series, and winning the World Series, it makes it a lot easier to have everyone get along in the clubhouse,” Burnes said. “Obviously, having won 101 games last year and getting to the postseason, everyone has got that same goal again this year.

“So it’s easy to come in and be a part of that group, because ultimately, we all want to win. We all want to win the World Series.”