Brandon Woodruff is excited for the opportunity to make his first Opening Day start for the Milwaukee Brewers in spite of the unprecedented circumstances that will accompany the 2020 MLB season.
“Obviously any chance that you’re named the Opening Day starter is a huge honor,” Woodruff said.
“You just try to go out, do your job, and have fun. Take it as a huge honor because it really is. It’s something that you can always say you’ve done, kind of like the All-Star Game . One of those things they can’t take away from you.”
That All-Star Game appearance that Woodruff referenced in his media availability is now just one of a growing number of important milestones being achieved by the former 11th round selection of the Brewers back in 2014.
It’s been a journey for the Mississippi native, who was first drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 5th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of high school, and unlike most who opt to go to college rather than signing, his stock fell for his second time through the draft.
Woodruff spent much of the next four years in the Brewers minor league system before finally reaching the major-league level at the end of the 2017 season. Woodruff is one of just two Brewers starters in 2020 to have made at least 10 starts for the team in 2019, a season in which Woodruff went 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 22 starts.
Woodruff missed time in the second half of 2019 with an oblique injury, and he’s looking to pick up where he left off in the first of 2019, here in 2020.
When Woodruff does make his first Opening Day start this coming Friday night against the Chicago Cubs, there will be no fans in attendance at Wrigley Field.
“I would say that obviously, it’s going to be different,” Woodruff said. “Everything about this year has been different, not going to sugar coat that. We’re just so excited to get back together as a team and go out and play baseball, go play against other teams, I know we’re getting tired of playing each other.”
“We’re just ready to go out and compete, and I think that once we get to the ballpark and kind of get out there and get that sense of ‘hey this thing is about to start up,’ I think it’s gonna be like any other game. Obviously no fans, that’s gonna be different. There’s going to be times where there are big-time moments and you may not realize it as much, but I think once it sets in, as baseball players we’re gonna still be in that same mindset of going out there and doing our jobs.”
Having no fans in attendance doesn’t seem to be an issue for Woodruff, and really it’s probably not a huge issue for most players. As woodruff said, they’re going out there to do a job.
Staying on par with the oddities of 2020, Brewers’ skipper Craig Counsell delivered the news to Woodruff last week in his office, with both according to Woodruff wearing their masks and practicing social distancing.
According to Counsell, this Opening Day nod for their homegrown talent is just the first of what he hopes to be many, one that Woodruff is relishing no matter the circumstances.
“It’s a huge honor, and my goal is to make as many of them as I can.”
When he does take the ball on Friday, he’ll be missing his support system in the stands, with his parents back in his home state of Mississippi. Woodruff said that due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases back home, he’ll be advising his parents to skip the viewing party, and asking them to just take in the ballgame in the comfort of their own home.
As far as numbers are concerned, Woodruff is not focusing on them in this 60-game sprint. He’s just looking to go out and win as many ballgames as he can for the Brewers who are in search of their third-consecutive Postseason appearance for the first time in franchise history.
“I think if you dwell on numbers, that’s where you get caught up in some bad places,” Woodruff said. “You try not to look at numbers, obviously you want to go out and pitch well, that’s our job. With these 60 games, it’s going to be a sprint, we all know that. It’s not going to be a 162-game season, it’s going to be a sprint and it’s going to be the team playing the best brand of baseball for these 60 games.”
“When it’s go-time you step between those lines, there’s one thing on your mind and that’s to keep your team in the ballgame and try to win that ballgame.”
As for his Opening Day pitching opponent, Kyle Hendricks, Woodruff knows that he can challenge hitters plenty.
“I think I’ve faced him one other time in a start here at Miller Park, and I’ve seen the changeup, I’ve seen the big curveball. Obviously, he’s not going to blow you away with 98 [MPH] but he does it in a different way.”
The Brewers open their 2020 campaign next Friday night at Wrigley Field under the lights, and Woodruff couldn’t be any more excited.