ST. PETERSBURG -- Ask Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez if the past year has sunk in yet, and the 28-year-old simply says, "Pinch me."
"It's incredible," said Gonzalez, who ascended from Minor League Spring Training to the Orioles' rotation and will pitch Thursday's series finale against Tampa Bay. "I think things happen for a reason. Last year I was nowhere to be found, and this year they gave me a chance to be the third starter. [Pitching coach] Rick Adair and [manager Buck Showalter], they do a great job, giving me the opportunity to start tomorrow's game. It's going to be pretty interesting for myself."
Gonzalez went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) as a rookie last season, and he made his first Opening Day roster this spring.
"It was real cool," Gonzalez said of standing out on the field for Tuesday's introductions at Tropicana Field. "No matter where you are at, or what happens, or what you are doing, playing baseball is still one of the funnest things you can do. I've been playing since I was little, and now being with a team, being with the Orioles, means a lot to me.
"I'm pretty excited [for Thursday's start] and I feel good about myself. Physically I'm ready. Mentally as well. And being able to work out with Brady [Anderson] this offseason, he opened up his door for us… made it fun for us."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.