FORT MYERS, Fla. — The last time Dean Kremer took the mound, he had to shut out all his emotions.

It was game three of the American League Division Series and Kremer was starting with the Orioles facing elimination in the five-game series. But, just two days prior, Israel, where most of Kremer’s family resides, had declared war on Hamas after an unprecedented surprise attack from the militant group that controls the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The Orioles checked in with Kremer, who has dual Israeli-American citizenship, prior to the playoff start, offering their condolences and asking if he still felt like he could handle it, given the gravity and uncertainty that was happening in Israel at the time.

Kremer didn’t hesitate. This was his job, he said. He knew, he added, there would sometimes be outside factors that he would have to block out.

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And this was the ultimate test to see how well he could do that.

“He was dealing with a lot,” manager Brandon Hyde said on Wednesday. “That was a really tough time for him. He seemed like he really wanted that challenge going against those guys.”

Facing a red-hot Rangers offense, Kremer was pulled in the second inning after giving up six earned runs. Texas went on to win the World Series, while Kremer and his teammates packed up and headed home.

It took Kremer a few weeks, he said, to get over that game. He kept himself busy, putting his energy into decorating his new house, cooking, and hosting his mother in lieu of being able to visit Israel.

He resumed training again in November, ready to turn the page to a new season.

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“Once I got back in the gym, and started throwing again, I felt refreshed and focused more on this year,” he said.

Kremer’s 2023 season, despite a poor playoff appearance, showed that there’s much to build on. He got off to a slow start, posting a 6.67 ERA in April. A Friday night start in Atlanta in early May, when he pitched six innings and gave up just one run, proved to be just the spark he needed. From there, he pitched to a 3.68 ERA the rest of the season, averaging over five innings a start.

“I just thought it was a learning experience,” Hyde said of Kremer’s season. “Took some lumps early in the season last year then figured some things out.”

The statistic that is perhaps most notable is his innings pitched. He accumulated 172 2/3 last year, a career-high by nearly 50 innings. The Orioles have had a true workhorse in each of the past two seasons, with Kyle Gibson pitching 192 innings last year and Jordan Lyles 179 the year before.

Kremer wants to be next in line. And the Orioles will take any help they can get from him, as Kyle Bradish is sidelined with an injury to start the year and John Means’ throwing program is delayed.

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“I’m trying to eat as many innings as I can,” Kremer said. “The goal is 200, that’s the benchmark for starters who are healthy the whole year. That’s the goal, to try to do that repeatedly year after year.”

It’s not an easy task in this day and age. Only five major leaguers reached that mark last season, compared to 34 a decade ago. But this spring training, Kremer’s first normal one as a major leaguer, should set him up well to accomplish that task. The COVID-19 pandemic altered spring training in 2020 and 2021, a lockout shortened it in 2022, and the World Baseball Classic in 2023 placed Kremer, who represented Israel, in competitive games early.

On Wednesday, against the Twins, Kremer pitched two innings in his first outing of the spring. The first inning was tough, with Kremer allowing a run, two hits and a walk as he faced six batters. The second was better, with Kremer getting three quick outs.

“It happened pretty quickly, I didn’t even get my feet under me yet,” Kremer said. “It is what is. They are feeling it out, I’m feeling it out. It’s the first time in competition, juices are flowing a bit more than normal.”