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You may have been surprised to learn that Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk despite allowing just two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings of the 13-inning marathon win on Thursday night.
His demotion has very little to do with his performance in his fifth major league start as the Orioles are in need of an extra bullpen arm after the group pitched 7 2/3 innings Thursday night and has three more games against the heavy-hitting Red Sox at Camden Yards this weekend. Baltimore will announce the corresponding move prior to Friday night’s game.
The 2012 first-round pick allowed two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against Boston, striking out five and allowing six hits. The only blemishes on his night came in the fourth inning when David Ortiz and Mike Carp hit solo home runs off the right-hander. In five starts with the Orioles, Gausman is 0-3 with a 7.66 earned run average, 20 strikeouts, and six walks in 24 2/3 innings.
Gausman would be required to stay in the minors for a minimum of 10 days before he can return to the big leagues, but there could be a way to get him back on the 25-man roster sooner than that. In addition to the possibility of another pitcher being placed on the 15-day disabled list — which would waive the 10-day waiting period for the rookie — the Orioles will be placing starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on the paternity list at some point in the near future.
Scheduled to make his next start on Sunday, Gonzalez has told reporters his wife’s due date falls on June 19. If the birth of Gonzalez’s daughter comes a day or two early, Gausman would be a prime candidate to replace Gonzalez upon the latter being placed on the paternity list. Of course, that circumstance is out of the Orioles’ hands and is not something they can count on as the possibility exists that he won’t even make the start against Boston should his wife go into labor even earlier.
As for which pitcher the Orioles are likely to promote, left-hander Zach Britton appears to be a very logical choice. He last started for Norfolk on Monday, meaning he would be able to pitch a few innings out of the bullpen if required on Friday night. He could also be on call to replace Gonzalez for Sunday’s start should the right-hander receive word from his wife over the next day or two. And if Gonzalez does make his start against the Red Sox, Britton could take Gausman’s turn in the rotation Tuesday in Detroit, a place where he had a tremendous outing in what was otherwise a very disappointing 2012 season for the 25-year-old.
For what it’s worth, Britton has been very good in his last five starts for the Tides, allowing seven earned runs in 31 innings (2.03 ERA) and posting a 2-1 record. Beyond the numbers, the narrative reports on Britton from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin have been very favorable, according to Orioles manager Buck Showater.
Of course, Britton’s potential promotion is just a guess and certainly not the only pitcher to which the Orioles could turn. Norfolk pitchers Josh Stinson and Jair Jurrjens are scheduled to make starts in a doubleheader Friday night, so both of them could be candidates to pitch out of the bullpen as well.
We’ll find out for sure by Friday afternoon.