By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
BD: Barry after a disappointing week from the Orioles, there have been some interesting developments at Camden Yards. The first one involves the handling of the pitching staff, as players have been consistently sent down and brought up for the past couple weeks for fresh arms. Most importantly the team’s top prospect found himself in the big leagues for just one start on Wednesday, May 14, against the Detroit Tigers at home. After an underwhelming performance (five earned runs in four innings), he was immediately sent back down to the Norfolk Tides to make room for relief pitcher Evan Meek. So I ask you Barry, what do you make of the Orioles handling of Gausman and are they on the fast track of ruining another highly touted pitching prospect?
BK: The Baltimore Orioles have not had a good track record when it comes to the development of young pitchers, and Wednesday’s performance from Gausman was more of the same. With the Orioles in the midst of thirteen consecutive games, Chris Tillman nursing a minor hamstring injury, and a possible suspension for Bud Norris it made sense for the Orioles to call up a starting pitcher from Triple-A Norfolk for Wednesday’s game. However, the decision for it to be Gausman was puzzling for many reasons. Gausman started the month on the minor league disabled list, and he was not on full rest. Combine that with the 12:35 pm start and Justin Verlander taking the mound for the Tigers, the odds were not in Gausman’s favor.
Kevin Gausman is one of the best pitching prospects in the major leagues, and the Orioles should focus on maximizing his potential rather than risking his development for an early May game against the best team in the American League. While Gausman has had some success at the major league level out of the bullpen, the ultimate goal is for him to become a member of the starting rotation as early as this summer, and as late as Opening Day of 2015.
If the Orioles continue to be at or near the top of the American League East, the team could be faced with a predicament come September. In the thick of a playoff race, is it worth calling up Gausman to pitch important innings out of the bullpen, even though he is being groomed as a starter? Only time will tell. But if it means the Orioles are competitive, then it is a good problem to have.
Injuries have become far too common this season. While the Orioles have been fortunate enough to avoid injuries the starting pitchers, the same cannot be said for the infielders. Catcher Matt Wieters is the latest Oriole to head to the disabled list. Brett, can the Orioles win without Wieters’ steady presence, and are you concerned that the catcher can maintain his longevity?
BD: Well the good news only comes with more bad for the Orioles, as they finally got Chris Davis back on the field, only to lose Matt Wieters. This team has not had its starting lineup together all season, but still are hanging on towards the top of the AL East. But the major issue here is Wieters long term health. It only figures that he would get off to his hottest start of any season during his career, batting .308 with 7 HRs and 18 RBIs, to be shut down in mid-May. This shoulder strain certainly reiterates the idea that he may not last as a full-time catcher for much longer in his career.
Defensively, his real strength is the ability to control runners on the base paths with his strong arm. Without that, he is nothing more than average backstop, without great movement to block balls in the dirt. His value for the team and future free agency drastically drops if he cannot throw out runners.
Though a visit with noted sports physician, Dr. James Andrews, brought positive news that Wieters should not need surgery that would have ended his season. Concerns do arise if this strain will linger and hinder his performance for the rest of 2014. The team has already reportedly been on the market for a catcher to platoon with Steve Clevenger. Which is never a good sign for the near future at the position and the team’s confidence that Wieters will make his way back to full strength.
It is a shame that this has happened after he has finally turned things around at the plate, but I’m pretty I have warned about this in the past. Buck Showalter’s overuse of his catcher may be catching up to him and Wieters may never be the same.