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The beginning of starting pitcher Kevin Gausman’s major league career hasn’t exactly gone as planned, but the Orioles are sticking by the rookie for now.
Despite allowing seven earned runs over four innings in a 9-3 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday, Gausman will make his scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers Sunday in Baltimore. Manager Buck Showalter confirmed the club’s plans after Gausman allowed three home runs while suffering his second loss in as many starts in the majors.
Though walking only one in his Tuesday outing, Gausman struggled to command any of his pitches, leaving several up and over the heart of the plate against the light-hitting Nationals. His fastball velocity remained in the mid- to upper-90s, but his off-speed stuff rarely fooled Nationals hitters as the 22-year-old failed to strike out a batter.
“There are nights when guys who have been here for a while struggle,” Showalter said. “Pitching in the big leagues is hard. And he’s got the talent to do it and eventually he will. And I look forward to it being the next time out. He knows mistakes get magnified here, but it’s part of the process.”
Through two starts, Gausman has posted an 11.00 earned run average over nine innings while striking out five and walking three. The right-hander has also allowed four home runs — he allowed only three in eight starts at Double-A Bowie — and 15 hits.
It’s clear the Orioles need to see a better return from Gausman much sooner rather than later for him to remain in the big leagues, but Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette are right not to pull the plug as quickly as some are suggesting they should. The Baltimore manager’s point is fair and a knee-jerk demotion after two starts would not only show a complete lack of faith in the organization’s talent evaluation — which would be another problem entirely — but it would reflect a lack of confidence in what was a bold decision to begin with.
If promoting Gausman was the right choice in which Duquette and Showalter believed — and it’s clearly not looking like a good decision so far — then two starts aren’t enough to accurately assess what you have. Otherwise, the move would have reeked of desperation and a lack of direction. And the same principle would hold true if Gausman would have thrown consecutive shutouts in his first two starts and observers were ready to send him to Cooperstown.
However, the days of allowing a young pitcher to go to the mound for a dozen starts with no accountability for the results are over as the Orioles view themselves as a viable contender. The club sent a message that it felt Gausman was the best of the available options in the minor leagues, so the rookie needs to produce enough to reflect that.
It’s apparent that Gausman still has plenty of improvement to make on his slider — a pitch the organization has acknowledged is a work of progress — but sharper command of his fastball and changeup would give him the ability to compete at this level and provide the Orioles with a good chance to win. If he can’t do that, his opening stint in Baltimore won’t last very long.
Gausman’s home debut won’t be easy on Sunday as he takes on an imposing Detroit lineup that entered Wednesday ranked first in the major leagues in runs, batting average, and on-base percentage.