OAKLAND — Cole Irvin’s return to the mound at the Coliseum was met with little fanfare from the A’s fans in attendance.
There was no tribute video or anything of that kind. Irvin was only there for two years and this fan base is, after all, used to its players being dealt. For Irvin, though, Oakland was the place where he solidified his major league career. It’s where he became a full-time starter, earning a spot in the rotation for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
The A’s traded him to Baltimore in January, a new adventure that hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Irvin. He’s been optioned and moved to the bullpen after poor performances, but he’s back in a starting role now after the Orioles moved to a six-man rotation.
He’s made the most of the opportunity so far, pitching five shutout innings in Seattle on Aug. 12. And on Saturday, in front of his old team, he continued to show that he can handle the role. He pitched five innings, allowing just one run on four hits in the Orioles’ 7-2, 10-inning win over the Athletics.
“I know this ballpark well,” Irvin said. “I made 62 starts in that uniform. I know this field, and I know how this ballpark plays. It’s only a couple pitches that I’d like to have back in that outing.”
It’s all part of a new mentality for Irvin, something he’s been working on since he was optioned after giving up 15 runs in his first three starts. By breaking down film, he saw he was pushing himself toward the left-handed batter’s box, causing him to miss arm side. He recentered himself and made the necessary adjustments while he was in Triple-A. He’s also getting more results with his cutter and his four-seam in.
Perhaps more notable, though, was that shift in mindset. He was humbled by his first Orioles starts, but he is now more aggressive in his approach and appreciative of the opportunity.
“I feel a lot more confident,” he said. “I feel like getting into the games, as a reliever or starter, I’m going to give the team a proper chance to win the game. I didn’t feel like i was doing that early on, and I was really frustrated with myself. To a man, just had to make some adjustments. Now I feel really confident each time I go out. Each time they give me a chance to take the ball, I’m leaving nothing behind.”
Irvin hasn’t held a steady position in the rotation since the beginning of the season, as he’s been filtered back and forth to the bullpen as needed since his return to the majors in June. Now, though, he has a chance, as he did when he got to Oakland in 2021, to solidly his spot as a major league starter again.
His outing on Saturday didn’t start strong, as he hit leadoff batter Esteury Ruiz with a pitch, much to the disdain of the crowd. Irvin then gave up a home run to Aledmys Díaz in the second. He wanted to throw a changeup, but instead threw a fastball down the middle. Irvin took a moment, smoothing out the dirt on the mound and collecting himself. He gave up three more hits and hit another batter, but he made it through the rest of his night without giving up another run.
Irvin wasn’t the only one making his return to Oakland. Shintaro Fujinami, traded in July, took over for Irvin in the sixth. He had inconsistent command when he was with the A’s, who moved him from their rotation to the bullpen. Although he has had some shining moments with the Orioles, he made a costly mistake and Diaz took advantage by hitting another home run to tie the game.
Austin Hays and James McCann homered in the fourth for the Orioles. Ryan Mountcastle had the RBI single in the 10th to push them ahead, and they added four more runs to secure the win.
“Just total team offense there in that inning,” manager Brandon Hyde said.