SARASOTA, FLA. — Right-hander Andrew Cashner didn’t spend much time on the mound during the Orioles’ 1-1 exhibition tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, though that had nothing to do with the way he was throwing the baseball.
He pitched just two innings and then took a hike so he can be fresh if needed to replace Alex Cobb as the Orioles’ Opening Day starter against the New York Yankees on Thursday.
Cobb suffered what is thought to be a mild groin strain in the first inning of Saturday night’s exhibition game against the Twins. He’s still tentatively at the front of the rotation while the team waits to see how he feels Monday, but it seems likely that Cashner will end up facing Masahiro Tanaka in the opener at Yankee Stadium.
Cashner said that other than the length of the outing, he prepared for it the same way as always.
“For me, you still prepare the same,’’ he said. “It’s just another game. Opening Day’s definitely different. I was still working on the spin of my breaking ball. I hung the one for the home run, but overall everything was right where I want to be.”
It would not be Cashner’s first Opening Day assignment. He started the first game of the 2014 season for the San Diego Padres. Cobb already has lost one Opening Day assignment to injury, forced out of the 2015 opener for the Tampa Bay Rays by elbow soreness that would lead to Tommy John surgery.
Cashner knows the history and said he hopes it doesn’t happen again for Cobb.
“It’s sad for him, man,’’ Cashner said. “He’s one of my best friends on the team. You know this happened to him before. You pull for your teammates. It’s definitely special. I want him to get that day. I’ve had an Opening Day before and he hasn’t, so I definitely want him to be able to have it.”
Jung Ho Kang tagged Cashner for a long home run in the top of the first and Josh Bell doubled off him later in that inning. Cashner then retired the last four batters he faced before giving way to Nate Karns.
That would be the only run scored in the game until the eighth inning, when the Orioles tied the game on a sacrifice fly by minor leaguer Zach Vincej.