Brandon Woodruff is stopping the Milwaukee Brewers’ revolving door of opening-day starting pitchers.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said Thursday that Woodruff will start the Brewers’ season opener for a second straight year. He will be facing Kenta Maeda when the Brewers host the Minnesota Twins on April 1.
“Any time you can go out, get the ball for the first game and try and set the tone for the year, it’s a huge honor and something I don’t take lightly,” Woodruff said Thursday from the Brewers’ spring training site in Phoenix.
Having the same pitcher start the opener in back-to-back seasons is something new for the Brewers. They had a different pitcher start each of the last seven season openers, causing fans to refer to an “opening-day curse.”
“I don’t really pay too much attention,” Woodruff said. “I just think it’s one of those things. I don’t know if anybody went along with that curse, I guess.”
Yovanni Gallardo started his fifth straight season opener in 2014. The list of opening-day starters since is: Kyle Lohse (2015), Wily Peralta (2016), Junior Guerra (2017), Chase Anderson (2018), Jhoulys Chacin (2019) and Woodruff.
Counsell had a couple of good options this year.
Woodruff, 28, went 3-5 with a 3.05 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 73 2/3 innings last season He tied for the NL lead with 13 starts. Corbin Burnes went 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings to finish sixth in the Cy Young Award voting.
But Woodruff has the stronger overall track record.
Woodruff went 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA and was an All-Star in 2019. Burnes’ breakthrough last year followed a 2019 season in which he went 1-5 with an 8.82 ERA.
“Brandon has established himself as a guy who has done it over a bunch of years at this point,” Counsell said. “He’s the guy at the front right now. It’s a bit of a ceremonial nod, as much as anything. I think Brandon earned it. That’s the biggest thing. You try to put a guy there that earned it. That’s what Brandon has done.”
Counsell said Burnes will start the Brewers’ second game April 3 against the Twins.
Woodruff gave up two runs over five innings in last year’s season opener, which the Brewers lost 3-0 to the Chicago Cubs.
This year’s assignment is particularly special for Woodruff.
Last year, he pitched the opener in front of no fans at Wrigley Field. This year, he will be at home with American Family Field filled to 25% capacity. Those spectators figure to include his wife, Jonie, and their daughter, Kyler Alise, who was born Aug. 31.
“That’s definitely a memory that we can cherish and look back on one day,” Woodruff said. “Just being able to have her in the ballpark is going to be cool — and just being able to have fans in general is a great thing.”
NOTES: Devin Williams, the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year, will make his Cactus League debut Saturday night as he works his way back from a sore shoulder that prevented him from pitching in the playoffs. … Saturday also is the night outfielder Lorenzo Cain is expected to play his first spring game after being slowed by a quadriceps issue.
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