Tag Archive | "kevin gausman"

Orioles can prove to be beasts of East by surviving West Coast

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Orioles can prove to be beasts of East by surviving West Coast

Posted on 18 July 2014 by Luke Jones

Sitting in first place at the All-Star break for the first time since 1997 didn’t exactly earn the Orioles any favors as they started the second half of the season in Oakland on Friday night.

A 10-game West Coast trip against the two teams with the best records in the majors and the second wild card leader in the American League probably gave manager Buck Showalter a restless night or two over this week’s respite. Knowing the Orioles play their next 23 games against clubs with winning records — not to mention the six following that against teams with .500 marks at the break — likely made him lose even more sleep.

Of course, Showalter and the Orioles have every right to feel good about themselves after winning 25 of their last 40 to move to 10 games above .500 and turn a 4 1/2-game deficit into a four-game lead over that stretch. They’ve built themselves a small cushion in a division in which no one is without sizable warts and imperfections with Toronto and New York seemingly moving in the wrong direction and Boston and Tampa Bay being mostly bad all season.

No, the trip to the West Coast will neither break nor make the Orioles’ chances of winning their first American League East title since 1997, but those 10 games allow them an opportunity to flex their muscles as a man amongst boys in an underwhelming division. Holding their own in Oakland, Anaheim, and Seattle — even going 5-5 — would not only keep the Orioles in first place but allow them to return home in late July in prime position to continue their quest to a second postseason appearance in the last three years.

A strong showing against the imposing AL West over the next couple weeks could be the difference between a relatively comfortable journey to October and needing to scratch and claw over the final two months of the regular season. In the same way that the Orioles took advantage of the recent struggles of the Blue Jays, the rest of the AL East will be rooting for Baltimore to wilt before finally returning to Camden Yards on July 29.

A starting rotation that’s pitched to a 3.18 ERA over its last 33 games will now face the two highest-scoring offenses in baseball over the next six contests. It was a 1-6 run against the Athletics and the Angels earlier this month that saw the Blue Jays’ one-game lead in the division turn into a 2 1/2-game deficit by the time they left the West Coast.

Even with the daunting stretch staring them in the face, the Orioles couldn’t ask for better timing as they’ll feel more rested now than they will at any point over the rest of the season. Aside from the current ankle injury to starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez — which many critics would deem a blessing anyway — the Orioles are as healthy as they’ve been at any point during the first half of the season.

Showalter has set up his rotation to include the 23-year-old Kevin Gausman — who could finally be with the Orioles for good — and will be looking for his starting pitchers to pick up where they left off to close the first half. And he’ll hope the inconsistent offense — currently ranked seventh in the AL in runs scored — will finally hit its stride and struggling first baseman Chris Davis starts looking more like the force he was a year ago and less like the .199 hitter who was lost at the plate for the first 3 1/2 months of the season.

By no means was it a perfect first half for the first-place Orioles as they lost catcher Matt Wieters for the season and saw their $50 million investment in Jimenez lead the majors in walks, but Baltimore was the least flawed of anyone in the division and still appears that way beginning the most difficult road trip of the season.

The Orioles can use these next 10 games to flex their muscles as the clear favorite in the division and solidify their first-place standing or could see themselves fall back with the rest of the imperfect pack in the AL East.

They’ve grown accustomed to being the hunter over the last three seasons; it will be interesting to see how they start the second half as the hunted after four days off to think about it.

By no means is it do or die, but the West Coast trip will be an opportunity for the Orioles to stake their claim as the overwhelming favorite in the division while sampling what they could see again in October.

 

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Gausman’s rotation spot must be solidified after All-Star break

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Gausman’s rotation spot must be solidified after All-Star break

Posted on 07 July 2014 by Luke Jones

If the Orioles really wanted to have a sense of humor, they’d offer a Kevin Gausman yo-yo giveaway night at Camden Yards in the second half of the season.

Monday brought the expected news of the 23-year-old right-hander being optioned yet again to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for former York Revolution relief pitcher Julio DePaula, who provided manager Buck Showalter with an extra arm in the bullpen after Sunday’s 12-inning win in Boston. The 31-year-old DePaula figures to only be with the Orioles for one game with Bud Norris set to be activated from the disabled list for Tuesday’s start against the Washington Nationals.

Yes, Gausman has options and the Orioles needed an extra arm in the bullpen, making him a logical choice to be sent to the minors to create an open spot on the 25-man roster. With next week’s All-Star break looming, the argument could be made that the 2012 first-round pick could only miss one start before returning in the second half of the season.

But is the constant yo-yoing of the young pitcher between Baltimore and the minors what’s best for him and the Orioles? Shuffling the deck with the likes of T.J. McFarland, Brad Brach, and Evan Meek is one thing — executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has manipulated his roster as much as anyone over the last three years — but continuing to mess with the rhythm of your top pitching prospect wouldn’t appear to be the best way to maximize your investment.

Showalter often quips that you can’t mess up the good ones no matter how much you try, but starting pitchers are also creatures of habit. Gausman has only gotten used to a routine of unpredictability and travel over the last month as he’s been optioned twice, was called up to serve as the 26th man for a doubleheader on June 27, and has pitched for the Orioles, Triple-A Norfolk, and short-season Single-A Aberdeen over that stretch.

The Orioles say there is another reason why they’ve handled the young pitcher in the manner they have this season, but even that excuse will no longer be valid after the All-Star break.

“I think every time he goes out [to pitch], it’s good for him,” Showalter said after Sunday’s 7-6 win over the Red Sox. “We’re managing his innings so — at some point — he’s good enough and we’re good enough to pitch the rest of the season. There’s a method to what we’re doing here. We’re trying to make sure a guy like him is available the whole year.”

In 2013, Gausman pitched 129 2/3 innings split between the Orioles and the minor leagues, putting him in line to throw somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 150 to 160 innings this season. He’s pitched 78 2/3 innings so far in 2014, leaving him on track to easily be able to handle a full workload as a starter in the second half.

But the excuses appear to be running out as even Hall of Fame pitcher and MASN analyst Jim Palmer recently took the organization to task over how Gausman has been handled despite pitching to a 2.45 ERA in his five starts since June 7. Showalter made a point during the club’s last homestand that he didn’t want to send Gausman to the hill on abbreviated rest, but the right-hander has twice been recalled to make starts on three days’ rest this season, albeit following what were abbreviated outings each time.

The Orioles gave Gausman infrequent work out of the bullpen for a large stretch of his rookie season instead of allowing him to work every fifth day on his secondary pitches at Norfolk.

Showalter may quip that you can’t prevent the best prospects from reaching their full potential, but the Orioles have put on a clinic in trying to do just that with Gausman over the last calendar year.

The young pitcher’s upside — and performance over the last month — has made his inclusion in the rotation a no-brainer despite the lingering headache of what to do to make room for him. Yes, the Orioles have the ability to move him on and off the roster as needed, but that doesn’t mean they should continue doing it if they want to see him thrive in the majors — and help them advance to the playoffs for the second time in three years.

The Orioles can’t keep Gausman out of the rotation because of a $50 million investment in Ubaldo Jimenez or loyalty to Miguel Gonzalez or Wei-Yin Chen. They need to make it work in allowing their best arm to pitch in the major leagues, regardless of what that means for the rest of the rotation.

Gausman has taken the high road whenever asked about being bounced back and forth between the big club and the minor leagues, but he’s also a human being with emotions who has to be wondering what more he needs to do to stay in the majors. The right-hander could have the impact of a trade-deadline acquisition if the Orioles simply give him a chance to flourish on a regular schedule.

“That’s really not up to me,” Gausman told reporters after Sunday’s outing. “I just try to pitch well when I can and when I get the opportunity to, but I have options and they’re going to use them if they feel like they need it. If we need a bullpen guy, that’s what it’s going to be.”

Next week’s All-Star break provides a final excuse for the Orioles to send Gausman back to Norfolk for one last start or two, but it will be time to solidify his place in the rotation after that — assuming he continues to perform at a level deserving of one.

And it will no longer be good enough to simply say they needed his roster spot if the Orioles truly want Gausman to be a critical part of a second-half run to the postseason.

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Orioles designate Ramirez to make room for Gausman

Posted on 06 July 2014 by WNST Staff

Orioles recall RHP Kevin Gausman from Class-A Aberdeen

RHP Ramon Ramirez designated for assignment

 

The Orioles today announced that they have recalled RHP KEVIN GAUSMAN from Class-A Aberdeen and designated RHP RAMON RAMIREZ for assignment. Gausman is expected to start today’s game at Boston.

Gausman, 23, is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA (28.0IP, 12ER) in five starts for the Orioles this season.

Ramirez, 32, made one scoreless appearance for the Orioles (1.0IP, BB, 2K) after having his contract selected on June 30.

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Orioles activate Reimold from DL, designate him for assignment

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Orioles activate Reimold from DL, designate him for assignment

Posted on 01 July 2014 by WNST Staff

The Baltimore Orioles announced Tuesday they had activated OF Nolan Reimold (back) from the 60 day DL and designated him for assignment.

The team will now have 10 days to trade or release the 30 year old. If he is not claimed off of waivers the team could then give him a minor league assignment. Should Reimold refuse that assignment, he would forfeit the rest of his 2014 salary. If a team does claim Reimold or he accepts the assignment, the Birds would still owe him roughly $500,000 of his $1.025 million salary.

Reimold had cervical spine fusion surgery in the spring, the most recent in a line of health-related issues for the Bowling Green alum. After being sidelined by an oblique strain and achilles tendon fraying early in his career, Reimold’s most significant issues began in 2012. The Pennsylvania native had surgery for a herniated disc in June 2012 that shortened his season, he was forced to have corrective surgery just a year later to fix the previous procedure.

Since arriving in the big leagues in 2009, Reimold has played in just 286 games (all with the Orioles). He has hit .252/.327/.439 with 41 home runs and 126 RBI in the span.

NOTES: The Boston Red Sox announced INF Michael Almanzar had been returned to their organization by the Orioles. Almanzar was Baltimore’s choice in the major league portion of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft and was designated for assignment Monday after being activated from the 60 day DL (knee)…Kevin Gausman is eligible to return to the bigs after his 10 day waiting period expired following his June demotion. Orioles manager Buck Showalter announced Gausman will start Wednesday for the Aberdeen Ironbirds and could be in line to start for the O’s Sunday against the Red Sox

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Norris officially sent to disabled list with right groin strain

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Norris officially sent to disabled list with right groin strain

Posted on 26 June 2014 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Friday at 12:05 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — After leaving his start with right groin discomfort last Saturday in New York, Orioles pitcher Bud Norris was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Friday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The right-hander underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Thursday that revealed a strain that will force him to miss at least one start. Norris was still experiencing discomfort while completing a bullpen session on Wednesday that prompted the Orioles to recommend further testing. Norris is eligible to be activated from the DL on July 7.

“When [the doctors] said it was going to be four or five days before he can get on the hill again, waiting around isn’t very beneficial,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We feel confident that we can resolve it in the DL period.”

Showalter will not need another starter until Tuesday as Kevin Gausman was summoned to pitch the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays with Chris Tillman starting the nightcap in Norris’ place. Because of Thursday’s off-day, the Orioles will send lefty Wei-Yin Chen to the hill on Saturday and right-hander Miguel Gonzalez on Sunday to conclude the four-game series. Ubaldo Jimenez will then pitch Monday’s series opener against the Texas Rangers on four days’ rest.

Gausman served as the club’s 26th man roster exemption for the day-night doubleheader and will be returned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game to fulfill his 10-day requirement in the minors. He is expected to be recalled in time to make his next start on Wednesday, but he is not an option to pitch on short rest for Tuesday’s game, according to Showalter.

The Orioles could look at current long reliever T.J. McFarland to make a spot start on Tuesday before settling into a five-man rotation with Gausman occupying Norris’ original slot.

“Right now, we’re probably looking for a break from the weather,” quipped Showalter, who added that newly-signed Norfolk lefty Randy Wolf isn’t ready to be an option for Tuesday. “We’ll be alright. We’ve got some good options.”

Right-handed relief pitcher Evan Meek was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take Norris’ place and serve as an extra arm in the bullpen for the twin bill. Meek is 2-0 with three saves and a 2.79 ERA in 17 games for the Tides and has gone 0-2 with a 6.39 ERA in 13 appearances for the Orioles this season

With third baseman Manny Machado’s looming suspension, the Orioles must play a man down in his absence and cannot use his spot on the roster, which led to them recalling Meek to use Norris’ roster slot for the time being with that spot expected to eventually address Machado’s absence. When a decision is made on Machado, the club will add an extra infielder — presumably in place of Meek or another reliever — and Jemile Weeks will likely be recalled as he traveled to Baltimore on Thursday night.

Though Norris isn’t expected to be sidelined for long, the news is a tough break for the 29-year-old as he’s been the club’s most consistent starting pitcher this season. In 14 starts, Norris owns a 7-5 record with a 3.62 ERA in 87 innings and has struck out 60 while walking 28 batters.

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Orioles roster on skates with Machado’s looming suspension, Norris’ groin injury

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Orioles roster on skates with Machado’s looming suspension, Norris’ groin injury

Posted on 25 June 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With third baseman Manny Machado awaiting a decision on an appeal of a five-game suspension and starting pitcher Bud Norris still dealing with groin soreness, the Orioles are preparing to shuffle their roster over the next several days with various scenarios in play.

Machado had his hearing in Baltimore on Wednesday with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and agent Dan Lozano in attendance. Joe Garagiola, Jr., senior vice president of standards and on-field operations for Major League Baseball, was also present as the sides met at the Camden Yards warehouse.

“At this point, there’s nothing to talk about,” Machado told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. “Just wait and see how many games I’m going to get suspended. Hopefully, I don’t and just get fined.”

The Orioles remain hopeful that a ruling will not come prior to Friday’s split doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays because they are not allowed to fill Machado’s roster spot for however many games he must sit. Manager Buck Showalter acknowledged they would likely need another infielder in Machado’s absence. Logical candidates who could be added include Steve Lombardozzi and Jemile Weeks, who are both on the 40-man roster and currently playing at Triple-A Norfolk.

As far as which pitcher would go to make room for an additional infielder, Norris could figure into that equation as he was still experiencing some discomfort with his right groin while throwing a bullpen session on Wednesday. The right-hander had hoped to make the start in the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader, but Chris Tillman will go in his place.

For now, the Orioles are optimistic that Norris will avoid the disabled list, but their roster needs with the Machado suspension could complicate that expectation. Showalter announced after Wednesday’s game that Norris would undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Thursday morning.

“I don’t think Friday’s a good option,” said Showalter, who added that Norris is more uncomfortable working from the stretch than the windup. “[He's] a little tentative, but better. I just don’t think he’s quite there yet.”

Showalter added that Norris is still in play to potentially start on Saturday or Sunday, but he will need at least one more bullpen session to see where he is from a physical standpoint. Because of Thursday’s off-day, the Orioles could push Norris as far back as Tuesday before they would need another starting pitcher.

Right-hander Kevin Gausman will start the first game on Friday as the 26th man that can be added for day-night doubleheaders, but the 23-year-old will then return to the minors for the remainder of his 10-day requirement after being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk last weekend. Gausman would be able to return to make his next start next Wednesday, but that would still leave Tuesday unaddressed should Norris not be ready by that point in time.

While they wait to see how quickly Norris continues to improve, the Orioles have several ways to handle the Machado suspension while keeping an eye on a potential need for a starter next Tuesday.

“We have things in place,” Showalter said. “Maybe somebody moves to Bowie to be closer. We’ve got some things in place — infielders, possible pitchers. There are some moving parts on it. We’re trying to prepare for the scenarios.

“Everybody’s in play. And there’s about a 50-percent [chance] that we stand pat [depending on] what happens.”

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Orioles option Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk to add bullpen help

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Orioles option Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk to add bullpen help

Posted on 21 June 2014 by Luke Jones

As if the sting of Carlos Beltran’s walk-off home run weren’t enough on Friday night, the Orioles raised eyebrows with the decision to option right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk following the heartbreaking 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees.

Manager Buck Showalter needed another bullpen arm after long man T.J. McFarland pitched two innings in the series-opening contest at Yankee Stadium, and the Orioles recalled right-handed pitcher Brad Brach from Triple-A Norfolk to take Gausman’s spot on the 25-man roster prior to Saturday’s game. Brach has posted a 5.40 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with the Orioles this season.

The Orioles have been going with a six-man bullpen since they began using a six-man rotation, which necessitated the need to temporarily take a starting pitcher off the roster.

The good news is that the impressive 23-year-old shouldn’t be be gone for long as the Orioles can bring back Gausman as their 26th man for the split doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Rays next Friday. This essentially means the only consequence for sending him down is moving his next scheduled start from Wednesday to Friday with an off-day between those games.

Since being recalled on June 7, Gausman is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts spanning 19 innings. The decision isn’t ideal with the current six-man rotation already providing extra rest to starters, but there’s no logical reason to believe the Orioles wouldn’t bring him back for next Friday’s start.

Of course, the Orioles can only hope they haven’t messed with the 2012 first-round pick’s good vibes as Gausman would be making his next start on eight days’ rest if he is in fact recalled next Friday.

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B&B Big Story Banter: If We Were the Orioles…

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B&B Big Story Banter: If We Were the Orioles…

Posted on 14 June 2014 by Brett Dickinson

By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen 

BK: Another week of Orioles baseball means another set of highs and lows for a team that finds itself fighting for second place in the American League East. The starting pitching has been the team’s bright spot, with Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman combining for just 1 run allowed in 21 innings during the rain-filled series with the Boston Red Sox. Kevin Gausman also had his best week as professional, going 2-0 and out-pitching Sonny Gray and Mark Buehrle against the Oakland Athletics and the Toronto Blue Jays respectively.

Despite the great starting pitching, the week was marred by another poor outing from Ubaldo Jimenez and the antics of 3B Manny Machado during the series with the Athletics. If the Orioles are going to compete for a playoff spot in a very winnable division, the team will need both Jimenez and Machado to regain their 2013 form rather than continuing at the pace that they are on.

The news of Manny Machado’s 5 game suspension (which he has appealed) shocks no one who follows the Orioles. Machado’s helmet-slamming and bat-throwing actions were both immature and inexcusable, providing an already potent Athletics team with more motivating to win a series during a difficult road trip. So Brett, I ask you this: if you were the Orioles, how would you go about handling the Manny Machado incident? Was appealing the suspension the right call?

Manny Machado Josh DonaldsonBD: Barry, knowing this organization, I already knew this would be a PR nightmare; and they didn’t disappoint.  First off, having a MASN exclusive interview with him after the incident is simply a joke. We all know who is signing those checks for the TV network and we have seen this many times in the past. Then nobody in the organization has the balls to sit the young man down.  The players had to take action, since it was clear nobody else was.  Embarrassing.

There was no reason at all he should have played that game on June 7th, after his actions the night before with Oakland A’s 3B Josh Donaldson.  Buck should have realized that he was out of control then and benched him on the spot.  As a 21 year old, sometimes you need to be knocked down a peg or two, before things really get out of hand…like they did two days later.  And by having Chen hit Donaldson that same night, it was just a terrible sign of how this team thinks.  ”We like OUR guys” does not mean you have to back them even if they were egregiously wrong.

Now after the episode on June 9th, everyone now sees Machado as a spoiled brat and dirty player.  The organization should have been proactive in this situation and made a point throughout their dugout.  Allowing him to play the night after not only is an embarrassment to the Orioles, but is a sign that Buck Showalter may not be the man for the job.  He proved that he does not have the where with all to stand up to a star player and put him in his place.

Now the appeal is just common practice in the MLB, as their is no repercussions for trying, so why not appeal and hope for a lesser sentence.  As a legal move it makes a lot of sense. As a personal move, if Machado really wanted to prove his sincerity, he just lets this one slide, accepts his punishment as a man and comes back ready to play in five days.

Now on to some good news for the O’s, as they have seen top prospect at least fulfill his expectations for his past two starts, after being called back up to the big leagues.  Thirteen innings, two earned runs and nine strikeouts may be the best two game stretch for any Baltimore pitcher this season (oh by the way the team won both games). If you were the Orioles, what do you do with Kevin Gausman and the starting rotation when Miguel Gonzalez  returns from injury? Is a 6-man rotation still a possibility?

Kevin GausmanBK: I had the privilege of getting a Manny Machado bobblehead (insert joke here) and watching Kevin Gausman in person last Saturday. Prior to the game, I had my doubts about how the evening would play out. Gausman’s first start of the year was against a division leader, with the opponent’s ace taking the mound. Under eerily similar circumstances Gausman rose to the occasion. What made the former LSU product so impressive was the velocity on his fastball (consistently hitting 96-97 mph) and the ability to ramp it up when needed. In the 6th inning, with runners on second and third and one out, Gausman struck out Athletics’ third baseman Josh Donaldson with a phenomenal off-speed pitch, followed by a 99 mph heater to  ring up cleanup hitter Brandon Moss that reminded me of Justin Verlander. By getting out of a jam by striking out the heart of the Athletics’ order, Kevin Gausman had arrived.

After another impressive start from Gausman on Thursday against yet another first place team, it is time for him to become a full-time member of the rotation. Of all of the Orioles starting pitchers, Gausman has already drawn three of the most difficult matchups on the season. By challenging him early, the team is preparing Gausman well for tough division games in August and September. With two straight quality starts, sending the 23-year old back to Norfolk or placing him in the bullpen would be misguided.

The idea of a six-man rotation was first brought up when Johan Santana was added to the roster. The idea was short lived, as Santana tore his Achilles during a start at extended spring training, ending his season. Although Buck Showalter has said that he does not want to go to a six-man rotation to sacrifice an arm in the bullpen, the team has the arms to do so. The extra day of rest for starting pitchers would benefit Chen and Gausman the most, while also giving the team more time to work with Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez on their early inning struggles. The Orioles also have four bullpen members who have starting experience (Tommy Hunter, T.J. McFarland, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz) that are capable of throwing two-plus innings if needed. This would require the team to make Darren O’ Day the closer, or a by committee approach.

The most likely scenario is for Gausman to stay in the rotation, while Miguel Gonzalez moves to the bullpen. Prior to the oblique injury, Gonzalez had put together a string of nice starts in May. The Orioles have a need for a right-handed reliever to work the 6th and 7th innings when starters like Jimenez and Chen produce high pitch counts, and Gonzalez has experience coming out the bullpen. There is room for both pitchers in a six-man rotation, but the Orioles don’t value the risk-reward as much as others.

 

 

 

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Gausman’s upside too good to pass up for Orioles rotation

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Gausman’s upside too good to pass up for Orioles rotation

Posted on 13 June 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn’t ready to commit to a decision, but he had to know the truth following a series-opening 4-2 win over the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays.

Following a second straight quality start and an impressive six-inning performance over another first-place team, 23-year-old right-hander Kevin Gausman deserves to remain in the rotation — at least, for now. Sure, the details might be a little foggy at the moment with Miguel Gonzalez — who turned in four straight quality starts before suffering an oblique strain — slated to return from the 15-day disabled list early next week, but Gausman’s upside is too much to overlook as the Orioles closed the gap to 3 1/2 games in the AL East on Thursday night.

“He’s done what it takes to be considered,” Showalter said. “He’s taking care of his end of it. And the good news for us is we’ve got some other people capable of pitching well, too. … ‘Gaus’ has pitched well in his two outings. I hope he’s starting to grasp what it takes to consistently help this team win.”

Pitching well against average opponents is one thing, but Gausman held Oakland and Toronto — two of the best offenses in the major leagues — to two runs in 13 innings to earn his first two wins as a major league starter. After being selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft, Gausman is starting to provide major-league substance to go along with the sizzle of a high-90s fastball that caused many to project him as a future ace coming out of Louisiana State University.

Already possessing a plus fastball and an impressive split changeup, Gausman has credited the development of two additional pitches in his repertoire to make himself a more viable option as a major league starter. Those pitches have been on display in his two outings since replacing Gonzalez in the starting rotation last week.

“I didn’t throw a circle change until I got to the big leagues last year, and I think it’s one of my better pitches now,” said Gausman, who relied on the pitch even more than his splitter on Thursday night. “My slider has gotten better as the year has gone on. It’s tremendously better than last year.”

The problem for Showalter is figuring out exactly how to handle his starting rotation. He’s spent the last few days downplaying the discussion of a six-man rotation that started last week before the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by veteran Johan Santana, but that always remains a distinct possibility.

Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Bud Norris are currently pitching too well to remove from the rotation, and the Orioles remain hopeful that 2013 All-Star selection Chris Tillman will build on his most-recent start against Boston to eventually regain his form from the last two seasons. That leaves right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez and the $50 million contract he signed during spring training.

His 5.01 ERA is the worst among the five starters as Jimenez is coming off his worst start of the season in a disastrous 11-1 loss to Oakland on Sunday. Of course, the Orioles should have known that Jimenez wasn’t a model of consistency when they signed him to a four-year deal but recognized his upside of being able to dominate when his unorthodox mechanics are in check.

Would the organization consider temporarily shifting him to the bullpen or attempt to find a physical concern to put him on the DL to give him time to revamp his mechanics? It’s difficult to say after the Orioles made the biggest long-term commitment to a pitcher in franchise history just a few months ago.

Still, the questions about how to accommodate Gausman should not overshadow what he could bring to the rotation over the final 3 1/2 months of the season as the Orioles try to advance to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. A simple assessment from one of the best hitters in a tough Athletics lineup told everything you need to know about the pitcher’s ability after he held Oakland to one run in seven innings last Saturday night.

That included a dominating sequence in which he struck out Josh Donaldson on an 85 mph splitter and Brandon Moss on a 99 mph fastball to leave runners stranded on second and third in the sixth. It was a big-boy performance in which a starter shows that rare ability to reach a new level late in an outing.

And it left one of the best offenses in the majors thoroughly impressed.

“I got to home plate in my first at-bat and I looked at [the catcher] and said, ‘How is that guy in Triple A?’” said Moss, who has 16 home runs and 53 runs batted in this season. “From what I understand, he’s had some command issues [in the past] and stuff like that. The way he pitched [Saturday] night was the best stuff we’ve seen all year.

“The first at-bat, you could tell he had [velocity], but you never know how that’s going to go. We can adapt to that. But the second and third at-bats, he started to mix in off-speed for strikes and balls and keeping it down. And then he had 99 in the tank when he had to hump up. You’re going to run into guys like that every now and then. We tried to battle.”

The Orioles must use a similar line of thinking with Gausman to what they did upon signing Jimenez to a four-year contract in focusing on the upside. The jury’s still out on whether the Jimenez contract will prove to be a wise one, but the goal of finding a pitcher who can dominate for important stretches of time — such as in a September pennant race or in a tight five- or seven-game series in October — should make it an easy decision to keep Gausman around for now.

If he regresses or proves incapable of building upon what he did against Oakland and Toronto, you can always send him back to Triple-A Norfolk. At the very least, Gausman deserves the chance to prove he doesn’t belong in the majors after these two starts that suggested the very opposite.

Perhaps he can be that missing piece that Showalter wasn’t necessarily depending on at the beginning of the season but will ultimately need. The Orioles manager would certainly take it if Gausman is ready to become that guy.

“Every team, to get where you want to get at the end of the season, the last team standing, if you look back at the characteristics of all of those teams, something that they weren’t particularly counting on appeared on the scene and was a big difference-maker. Kevin has the possibility of being that, but he’s going to need a lot of help.”

First, he needs the chance to do it.

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If Gausman shines, he should stay

Posted on 12 June 2014 by Tony Wisniewski

This could get complicated.

Kevin Gausman, long thought to be a cornerstone of the future of the Orioles’ pitching staff takes the mound tonight against the first place Toronto Blue Jays.  After earning his first Major League win as a starter just five days ago against the Oakland A’s, Gausman has a chance to put Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter in a tough spot.

Should Gausman pitch well tonight–let alone earn a victory against Mark Buehrle (10-2) and the Jays (39-28)–logic says he should remain a member of the Orioles starting rotation.  But the true question is, who is the odd man out?

Miguel Gonzales looks to return from the 15-Day DL shortly, creating a surplus of starters.

Initially, when Johan Santana was in the conversation, prior to tearing his Achilles, Showalter had kicked around the idea of an unorthodox six-man rotation; but after listening to WNST’s Luke Jones on yesterday’s Happy Hours show with Nestor, it doesn’t seem Showalter is leaning that way at this point.

When getting down to brass tacks, you’d have to think Gonzalez, who had started to finally find his groove before heading for a short trip to the DL, is a lock to return to the rotation.  In that same notion, if he has back-to-back solid outings against the two best clubs in the American League, it’s hard to imagine moving Gausman to the bullpen or sending him back to Norfolk.

Bud Norris is coming off of a combined shutout, as is Wei-Yin Chen who just recorded his seventh victory. They’re both safe.  Meaning, the true option, which is best for the ball club, is to move Ubaldo Jimenez to a long relief role.

Generally, when a pitcher struggles the way Jimenez has, it’s mechanical or possibly due to injury.  At seven losses and a ballooning ERA that’s now over the five-mark, it’s time to make some sort of change.

A change that isn’t a demotion, so to speak, but something that will allow Jimenez to spend time working out the kinks during bullpen sessions and contributing in non-critical game roles.

The other option is to find and injury and stick Jimenez on the DL; but that’s a short-sighted move, simply because like-it-or-not, he’s property of Baltimore for the next four years.  The time to figure out his issues are now, rather than shelf him and hope something magically changes.

Circling back, it’s impossible to take Gausman–who for all intents and purposes, has good enough stuff to finish the season as the ace of the staff–back to the minor leagues.

If he pitches well tonight, this should be it.  No more up-and-down, no more relief and spot start roles.  If Gausman looks anything like he did five days ago, he’s a mainstay that can be seen every fifth day in Baltimore.  Sure, it’s not really the best idea to send a $60 million pitcher to the pen, but sometimes you have to do what’s best for the club.

It’s complicated, but that’s a good thing.

 

 

Tony Wisniewski is the newest addition to the WNST staff.

Follow him @TonyWizTweets.

 

 

 

 

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