Mike Colla had never started a game in pro ball until April 28 of last year, but after a solid 2011 season, the right-hander is getting set to start on opening day Thursday for the Curve against Erie at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
"It's definitely an honor," Colla said. "Just learning a couple days ago I was going to get the opening-day nod, it takes me back to high school when I started the first game of the season.
"It's definitely one of those nerve-wracking things, but it's definitely exciting. I'm ready for it."
The Pirates don't use opening-day assignments in the minors as rewards for a team's best pitcher, like in the big leagues, and in Double-A it generally comes down to which pitcher is next up in the rotation after spring training.
Still, the 25-year-old Colla earned any rewards that may come his way with a strong showing in 2011.
He went from the bullpen to the Curve's starting rotation in late April and stayed there the rest of the year. He finished with a 3.70 ERA, ranking ninth in the Eastern League, and had 109 strikeouts with only 39 walks in 133 innings.
"It was good to go out there and put up some pretty good numbers and stay healthy, which is the biggest thing to me," said Colla, who had some bad luck record-wise as he finished 5-11.