When the Colorado Rockies signed Kyle Kendrick, they thought they were getting a middle of the rotation guy who could add some versatility to the pitching staff. Kendrick had been a back-end of the rotation guy who with a good history of staying healthy and a reputation of being an “innings-eater” during his big league career.

But he wasn’t supposed to start on opening day.

Then, a couple things happened in during spring training. First, the Rockies No. 1 starter, Jorge De La Rosa, came up gimpy with a sore groin. Nothing that will keep him out for a long time (he’s supposed to be back on the hill for the Rockies on April 14) but the kind of thing that throws off your spring training routine and cancels out that scheduled start in the opener.

Then, their projected No. 2 guy, Jhoulys Chacin – who looked like a shell of his former self during the early stages of camp – was released. As the only remaining arm with more than a full season of big league experience, there was not much of a decision to make as to who would start the Rockies opener. It was Kendrick.

I can relate. Back in 1991, I was penciled in as the No. 3 starter in the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. During my best days, I was a middle- to back-end-of-the-rotation guy who could also pitch in long relief and add some versatility to a pitching staff. I had a good track record of staying healthy. I was an innings eater back then. I was Kyle Kendrick.

As our season opener at Texas approached, a couple things happened. Our All-Star ace pitcher, Teddy Higuera, was slowed by injury (he would eventually need rotator cuff surgery.) So was our No. 2 starter, Chris Bosio. The rotation was suddenly in flux.

I had had a decent season in 1990, when I won 10 games, including two shutouts, and led the Brewers in starts and innings pitched (basically, I stayed healthy.) As a long man a couple seasons before, I’d gone 21 days between appearances (long men don’t tend to get used as often in the American League) and still fared okay, and that season, I’d actually started consecutive games on just two days rest. So manager Tom Trebelhorn figured he could use me in pretty much any situation. So he did.

I got the emergency opening day start… against Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

Back then, the President of the United States was George H. Bush, and he came to town to hang out with his son, then the owner of the Rangers. President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Nolan threw the first one that mattered. I was the afterthought.

Nolan didn’t have his best (aka no-hitter) stuff that night. Our lineup featured a couple of future Hall of Famers in Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. My teammates did enough damage to offset the two gopher balls I served up to Ruben Sierra and Kevin Reimer. In the end, we won 5-4.

Besides what happened on the field, I remember the pomp and circumstances the most. I remember our own Irv and Joe having their producer call the visiting clubhouse in Arlington and getting me to do a phone interview while the rest of my teammates were out taking batting practice. I remember the secret service coming in with sniffing guard dogs during the interview and going through everyone and everything. I remember the Texas fans treating me like I was Ivan Drago while I warmed up.

I don’t know what Kyle Kendrick went through in Milwaukee on Monday morning. The POTUS wasn’t there, so I doubt he had to deal with the secret service. And the Irv and Joe Show didn’t start on Mile High Sports Radio until the game had already begun, so he didn’t go through that, either.

Still, I’m sure Kendrick had a few of those “How did I get here?” moments before the game that he will always remember. Once he reached the hill, Kendrick was outstanding – far better than I was in my opening day start – so that’s likely what he and Rockies fans will remember the most. About the only thing our starts had in common was the tremendous support on both offense and defense we both got from our teammates.

As this season progresses, if Kendrick keeps pitching like he did against the Brewers, he definitely won’t be and afterthought. He might even get another opening day start someday.