Tag Archive | "kevin gausman"

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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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Orioles Nation’s Blair fearful Orioles putting P Gausman in bad position

Posted on 07 June 2014 by WNST Audio

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Orioles place Gonzalez on DL, summon Gausman to start on Saturday

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Orioles place Gonzalez on DL, summon Gausman to start on Saturday

Posted on 06 June 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After making it through the first two months of the season with their Opening Day rotation making all but one start, the Orioles placed starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique on Friday.

Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman has been summoned to make the start against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday but will not be activated for the series opener. The Orioles also optioned right-handed relief pitcher Preston Guilmet to Triple-A Norfolk, recalled left-handed pitcher Tim Berry from Double-A Bowie, and selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Evan Meek from Triple-A Norfolk.

To make room for Meek on the 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred Rule 5 infielder Michael Almanzar (knee) to the 60-day disabled list.

Manager Buck Showalter expressed optimism that Gonzalez’s time on the disabled list will be minimal as he could begin a minor-league rehab assignment at Bowie or Single-A Frederick as early as the middle of next week, putting him in line to return as early as his first day of eligibility on June 15. Gonzalez expressed optimism on Friday afternoon that he would still be able to make Saturday’s start, but Showalter did not want to risk him going to the hill and experiencing an issue with the oblique strain, leaving the Orioles in a dangerous position with their bullpen.

“No one wants to be on the DL, but you’ve got to think about it in the long run,” Gonzalez said prior to the news becoming official. “You don’t want to go out there and hurt yourself and be out for 2 1/2 months and miss all that time. You don’t want to do that.”

Gonzalez’s stint on the DL is retroactive to May 31 as he started against the Houston Astros last Friday. The 30-year-old right-hander is 3-4 with a 4.17 earned run average in 58 1/3 innings this season and had registered four straight quality starts prior to waking up with pain in his right side earlier this week.

Gausman will be making his second start of the season for the Orioles after being tagged for five earned runs in four innings in a spot start against the Detroit Tigers on May 14. Showalter expressed hope that the 2012 first-round pick would make it difficult on the Orioles to decide on his fate once Gonzalez is ready to be activated later this month.

In 10 starts for Norfolk this season, Gausman is 1-3 with a 2.98 ERA and has struck out 44 batters and walked 18 in 42 1/3 innings.

Berry and Meek were summoned to provide extra help in the bullpen after starter Chris Tillman was knocked out in the second inning of Thursday’s 8-6 loss to the Texans Rangers. The Orioles would then option Berry back to Bowie to make room for Gausman to start on Saturday if all goes to plan.

A 50th-round pick in the 2009 draft, the 23-year-old Berry landed firmly on the Orioles’ prospect radar after a 3.85 ERA at Single-A Frederick last year and was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. He is 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 11 starts for Bowie this season.

In other injury-related news, right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter (groin) will make a rehab appearance for Single-A Delmarva on Saturday and could be activated from the disabled list as early as Sunday.

During his outing in Sarasota on Friday, veteran left-handed pitcher Johan Santana was struck by a line drive and felt something in his Achilles tendon while trying to field the ball, causing him to leave the game. The 35-year-old was still being examined when Showalter met with local reporters on Friday afternoon.

Santana was expected to be assigned to a minor-league affiliate for his next outing as he is moving closer to an expected debut in Baltimore later this month, so it remains to be seen if those plans will now need to be altered.

 

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Orioles make changes to pitching staff prior to start of Oakland series

Posted on 06 June 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles today announced that they have recalled LHP TIM BERRY from Double-A Bowie and selected the contract of RHP EVAN MEEK from Triple-A Norfolk. Additionally, the club has placed RHP MIGUEL GONZALEZ on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 31, with a strained right oblique and optioned RHP PRESTON GUILMET to Triple-A Norfolk.

Berry, 23, has gone 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA (63.1IP, 29ER) and a career-best 3.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 starts for the Baysox this season. A 50th round selection in the 2009 First Year Player Draft, Berry will become the lowest-drafted player in club history to play in the majors with the Orioles when he makes his debut (previously INF CALVIN PICKERING, 35th round in 1995). Berry will wear #34.

Meek, 31, has gone 1-0 with three saves and a 3.95 ERA (13.2IP, 6ER) in 12 games with the Tides. He went 0-1 with a 6.94 ERA (11.2IP, 9ER) in 12 appearances for the Orioles earlier this season.

Gonzalez, 30, is 3-4 with a 4.17 ERA (58.1IP, 27ER) in 11 games (10 starts) for the Orioles this season, posting six Quality Starts and a career-best 7.7 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.

Guilmet, 26, has pitched to a 5.79 ERA (9.1IP, 6ER) in nine games for the Orioles this season, striking out 11 and walking two.

To make room for Meek on the 40-man roster, INF MICHAEL ALMANZAR has been transferred to the 60-day DL.

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Buying high on Samardzija unlikely to bring desired payoff

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Buying high on Samardzija unlikely to bring desired payoff

Posted on 28 May 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles need better starting pitching and they need an ace if they truly want to compete for a World Series title.

That cry has been uttered by fans and media alike for the better part of two years — even longer if you prefer going back to the free-agent departure of Mike Mussina after the 2000 season — as the rotation has mostly been comprised of arms with the ability of No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 starters who have often struggled to pitch deep into games, leaving the bullpen overworked and eventually worn out.

It comes as no surprise to see the reaction to a CBS Chicago report suggesting the Orioles are the “leading team of interest” in Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who currently sports a miniscule 1.68 earned run average through his first 11 starts of the 2014 season. That mark is second in the majors despite the 29-year-old being limited to a 1-4 record pitching for the woeful Cubs.

There’s no disputing Samardzija being a talented pitcher as he would be a clear upgrade in the starting rotation, but he’s also expected to be one of the top commodities available on the open market this summer. And that’s why it’s a dangerous proposition to bid on a solid pitcher who’s having a career season if you’re the Orioles or any club hot after his services.

As desperate as the Orioles should be for better starting pitching with their best competitive window closing after the 2015 season when Matt Wieters and Chris Davis are both scheduled to become free agents, Samardzija needs to be viewed for who he really is and not what the Orioles want him to be. The right-hander is off to an unbelievable start, but his 3.90 career ERA and 4.34 ERA pitching in the National League Central only last year suggest he isn’t much more than a solid upgrade and is not someone worth gutting a top-heavy minor-league system to acquire.

In other words, the Orioles wouldn’t be getting a David Price or a Cliff Lee in adding the 6-foot-5 right-hander to the starting rotation. And pitching in the American League East is a different story than the National League.

The Cubs are undoubtedly looking for a king’s ransom in exchange for Samardzija’s services, and there will be plenty of clubs looking to acquire him, which will further drive up the price. Should the Orioles be willing to part with some combination of top pitching prospects Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey, and Eduardo Rodriguez in order to land him?

It’s true that the Orioles have far too often been disappointed in waiting for a slew of top prospects to realize their potential in recent years, but that doesn’t mean executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette should willingly fork over what few minor-league pieces he has for what history suggests is an improvement but not a dynamic difference-maker to put the Orioles over the top. It will ultimately come down to Chicago’s asking price and how many teams are sold on Samardzija’s start in 2014 and the idea of him truly being an ace.

Is Samardzija — who is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season — worth the combination of Rodriguez and 21-year-old second baseman Jonathan Schoop or the package of one of Gausman, Bundy, or Harvey and a lower-level prospect? Perhaps, but if other clubs are willing to exceed that kind of a deal, the Orioles must remember that Samardzija’s 66 career starts prior to 2014 suggest he’s not even as good as Ubaldo Jimenez.

Despite his tiny ERA, Samardzija is averaging 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 2014 — actually down from his career average of 8.5 — and a .269 batting average on balls in play against him provides statistical evidence suggesting he won’t sustain his incredible start, which even the layman would predict anyway.

It’s a difficult call as the Orioles appeared to signal during spring training that they’re finally “going for it” after investing $50 million in Jimenez and signing slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract. Throwing money at free-agent commodities is one thing, but giving up young and cheap talent in a farm system needing more depth is a dangerous proposition if you’re not overwhelmed with what you’re getting in return.

The Orioles know their best window for competing is closing with Cruz, J.J. Hardy, and Nick Markakis set to become free agents after this season and Davis and Wieters the year after. If there were ever a time for the Orioles to pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal, it’s now, particularly with the AL East looking very average.

But is the Chicago pitcher the right target?

Samardzija would improve the rotation, but whether the Orioles would be so much better with him that Duquette should pony up a couple of his top pitching prospects is open for debate.

And the history before the first two months of 2014 suggests the answer is probably not.

 

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B&B Big Story Banter: Gausman & Wieters

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B&B Big Story Banter: Gausman & Wieters

Posted on 16 May 2014 by Brett Dickinson

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? 

Matt WietersBD: 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.

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Gausman sent back to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Meek

Posted on 15 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Kevin Gausman’s first run with the Orioles in the 2014 season ended just over 24 hours after it began.

The 23-year-old right-hander was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for right-handed reliever Evan Meek as Baltimore was preparing to begin a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Pitching on three days’ rest and less than two weeks removed from being diagnosed with a bout of pneumonia, Gausman struggled in his 2014 debut against the Detroit Tigers, surrendering five earned runs in four innings of work as the Orioles were swept in a 7-5 final on Wednesday afternoon. Though the 2012 first-round pick had posted a 2.08 earned run average in his six starts for the Tides, the decision to recall him after such a tumultuous two weeks was questionable at best as he hadn’t gotten back in the normal routine of a starting pitcher.

Manager Buck Showalter shared the desire to give left-hander Wei-Yin Chen an extra day of rest — and hinted that he didn’t want the lefty pitching against a Detroit lineup that’s mostly right-handed — and didn’t want to start Miguel Gonzalez on three days’ rest, prompting his temporary move to the bullpen for this turn through the rotation. It’s assumed that Gonzalez will now return to his spot in the rotation temporarily seized by Gausman.

Meek made the Orioles’ Opening Day club after being invited to spring training as a non-roster player and got off to a strong start before running into struggles in late April. The former 2010 All-Star selection had a 6.94 ERA in 11 2/3 inning for the Orioles and will likely find himself in more low-pressure situations than he did earlier in the season.

The 31-year-old allowed four earned runs over 6 1/3 innings spanning five appearances for the Tides.

 

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Gausman to make 2014 Orioles debut on Wednesday

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Gausman to make 2014 Orioles debut on Wednesday

Posted on 13 May 2014 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:30 p.m.)

BALTIMORE — The Orioles announced right-hander Kevin Gausman will make his 2014 season debut in a start against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.

The news comes as a surprise considering Gausman was dealing with a bout of pneumonia less than two weeks ago and made his most recent start for Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday, meaning the 23-year-old will be working on just three days’ rest. Gausman is scheduled to be opposed by former American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander on Wednesday afternoon.

“I threw kind of a shorter bullpen two days ago,” Gausman said. “I feel good. I feel good physically. I had a little bit of sickness there for a little bit, but [it] ended up being nothing too serious. Just happy to be feeling healthy, 100 percent, and feeling great.”

The Orioles had originally listed Wei-Yin Chen as Wednesday’s starter as it was his regular turn in the rotation, but manager Buck Showalter preferred giving the Taiwanese southpaw an extra day and implied that he didn’t want to use the lefty against a Detroit lineup dominated by right-handed hitting. Chen will start the opener of a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.

Gausman threw a season-high 77 pitches in 4 2/3 shutout innings at Indianapolis Saturday night as the Orioles have been limiting his innings in hopes of keeping the 2012 first-round pick fully available late in the season. Considering he will be working on short rest and hasn’t been fully stretched out this season, Gausman will unquestionably be on a limited pitch count with Miguel Gonzalez available in long relief.

“I feel good about all my pitches,” said Gausman, who feels he would be fine to throw 90 to 100 pitches against Detroit. “It was just good to get out there especially after being on the [minor-league disabled list]. That was my first time being on the DL. It’s kind of frustrating to be around baseball all day and not play.”

In six starts for the Tides this season, Gausman is 0-1 with a 2.08 earned run average and has struck out 26 and walked 14 in 26 innings of work. The right-hander missed nearly two weeks of action with what was initially diagnosed with an intercostal strain before it was determined he was suffering from pneumonia.

Gausman appeared in 20 games and made five starts for the Orioles last year, going 3-5 with a 5.66 ERA in 47 2/3 innings. However, he completed the best start of his career against Detroit last season when he allowed one run and five hits in six innings on June 2, 2013.

Chris Tillman is tentatively penciled in to pitch on Friday, but he’s been dealing with some groin soreness and Showalter wanted to make sure he made it through his bullpen session before declaring him ready to go. The Orioles are also waiting to hear about any potential discipline handed down from Major League Baseball for Saturday’s starter Bud Norris after his incident with Torii Hunter on Monday.

Gonzalez would be the prime choice to fill in for either Tillman or Norris if necessary.

“It kind of fits best for our club and some of the situations that changed over the last couple of days that we needed to be prepared for down the road,” said Showalter about Gausman’s promotion. “Obviously, some guys pitch better with extra rest and some guys don’t. Kevin, because of some of his inactivity down below and where they’ve shortened him up, his innings management is in good shape right now as we sit here in the middle of May.”

In injury news, Showalter said Norfolk outfielder Henry Urrutia’s sports hernia surgery was successful as he’ll need six to eight weeks to fully recover.

Right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy threw live batting practice for the first time since Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. The 2011 first-round pick threw 20 pitches and reached 93 miles per hour with his fastball.

Outfielder Nolan Reimold is now participating in all baseball-related activities and is getting closer to becoming an option again for the 25-man roster. He is currently on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to work his way back from a second spinal fusion surgery and is eligible to come off the DL on May 29.

Left-handed pitcher Johan Santana (shoulder) will pitch in his next extended spring training game on Friday. Young lefty Eduardo Rodriguez will pitch four innings Wednesday in Sarasota as he’s currently on the minor-league DL with a knee injury.

Rule 5 selection Michael Almanzar will have a doctor appointment regarding his knee later this week.

Veteran relief pitcher Luis Ayala was assigned to Double-A Bowie.

 

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Gausman won’t be summoned to join Orioles’ overworked bullpen

Posted on 02 May 2014 by Luke Jones

After sweeping a Thursday doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which four relievers pitched in both games, the Orioles will bring a new bullpen arm to Minnesota on Friday.

However, it won’t be top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman as manager Buck Showalter revealed the right-hander will be scratched from Friday’s start for Triple-A Norfolk due to an intercostal strain. The 23-year-old could be going to the minor league disabled list while the Orioles will look elsewhere for fresh bullpen help for a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.

Right-hander Evan Meek was optioned to Norfolk following the second game of the doubleheader, but a corresponding roster move wasn’t immediately announced.

Bullpen options to be considered include Norfolk’s Preston Guilmet and Suk-min Yoon and Double-A Bowie’s Tim Berry since all three pitchers are already on the 40-man roster. But it’s possible the Orioles could select the contract of a pitcher who isn’t currently on the 40-man roster, according to Showalter.

“We’re talking about it. Contemplating who and what,” Showalter said. “Gausman was scheduled to pitch [Friday], but he’s got an injury right now and it looks like he’s going to be scratched from his start [Friday]. I was looking during the game at who had pitched in that game tonight and their history. We carry a card around with all the Double-A and Triple-A pitching, so there are three or four options there if we need and then you have to talk about how. We’ll see.”

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Seven Orioles players to watch closely during spring training

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Seven Orioles players to watch closely during spring training

Posted on 11 February 2014 by Luke Jones

The start of spring training will inevitably bring a new batch of clichéd stories about players being in the best shape of their lives or feeling poised for career seasons, but the Orioles will need several players to emerge from the shadows to continue the momentum started over the last two seasons.

After a disappointing offseason that has featured no impact signings or significant acquisitions at this late stage, manager Buck Showalter must look from within the current roster for solutions to hopefully bring the Orioles a third consecutive winning season, a modest achievement they haven’t realized in 20 years (1992 through 1994).

The Orioles face uncertainty in the starting rotation and in the back end of the bullpen as well as at second base, designated hitter, and left field, making this spring’s workouts in Sarasota as important as any in recent memory. However, most answers won’t truly come until the regular season when Baltimore is thrown back into the reality of competing in the heavyweight American League East.

Here are seven players (with their 2013 stats noted in parentheses) to watch closely over the next six weeks before the Orioles break camp ahead of Opening Day on March 31:

7. 2B Ryan Flaherty (.221, 10 HR, 27 RBI, .683 OPS)

The opinions on the 27-year-old Flaherty have been polarizing in his brief major league career with plenty of good (16 home runs in 438 plate appearances and strong defense) and bad (a 12-for-90 start to 2013 that landed him at Triple-A Norfolk in May) over the last two years. However, the former Rule 5 pick appears to be the favorite to replace Brian Roberts as the starting second baseman and hit .276 with an impressive .812 OPS in 156 at-bats after being recalled from the Tides in late May. As we saw early last season, Flaherty’s defense alone gives him a long leash in Showalter’s eyes, but the Orioles hope he finally finds consistency at the plate with no established veteran in the mix as a serious threat.

6. OF/DH Henry Urrutia (.276, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .586 OPS)

The Cuban defector was the toast of the Orioles’ farm system last season as he raked at both Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk — hitting .347 with 31 extra-base hits between the two levels — before being called up to the majors in late July. All but one of Urrutia’s 16 hits with the Orioles were singles, but far too many have written off the 27-year-old while overlooking how tumultuous the last couple years were for him in simply trying to get to the United States, let alone immediately thrive in professional baseball. There’s no question that Urrutia needs to hit for more power to stick, but nearly 20 extra pounds and a full offseason to hone his craft make this spring an interesting one for him as the Orioles are still unsettled at the designated hitter spot.

5. LHP Zach Britton (2-3, 4.95 ERA, 1.725 WHIP)

This year is likely to be Britton’s last chance with the Orioles as he’s out of options and coming off his second consecutive underwhelming season in which he pitched poorly in 40 major league innings and posted an unimpressive 4.27 ERA at Norfolk. Britton walked too many hitters and didn’t miss enough bats (striking out just 4.1 per nine innings), but the fifth starter job is open for now and the fact that other contenders such as Kevin Gausman and Steve Johnson have remaining options gives the 26-year-old lefty a slight edge in the race. His 5-1 start as a rookie in 2011 feels like an eternity ago, but Britton has no better chance but this spring to show Showalter and new pitching coach Dave Wallace that he’s finally figured everything out.

4. OF/DH Delmon Young (.260, 11 HR, 38 RBI, .715 OPS combined with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay)

One of the few players the Orioles signed this offseason who has significant major league experience, the 28-year-old Young agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training and figures to have a good chance to make the club as the right-handed designated hitter. He carries off-field baggage to go along with uneven performance over the last three years, but the No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 draft is a career .303 hitter with an .812 OPS against left-handed pitchers in his career. It was only 2010 when Young had a career season by hitting .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBIs, but the Orioles simply hope he can be part of the answer in a possible DH platoon situation.

3. LF David Lough (.286, 5 HR, 33 RBI, .724 OPS with Kansas City)

The Orioles spent much of the winter talking up Lough’s potential and there’s no doubting his above-average defensive ability, but whether he can handle the starting job in left field remains to be seen. A younger and cheaper version of Nate McLouth, Lough slugged a decent .413 but walked only 10 times in 335 plate appearances with the Royals last season, which isn’t something you’d like to see given the Orioles’ poor on-base percentage as a team in 2013. The 28-year-old hit .292 against southpaw pitchers last season, which bodes well for his chances to play every day, but the Orioles really would have benefited from a substantial upgrade at the position instead of a poor man’s version of McLouth, who wasn’t exactly a world-beater in 2013.

2. 3B Manny Machado (.283, 14 HR, 71 RBI, .746 OPS)

It remains to be seen how much the 21-year-old will play this spring — if at all — as he continues his rehabilitation from knee surgery, but his recovery is critical to not just the 2014 season but the future of the franchise. The Orioles need to be careful in easing Machado back to baseball, but it will be interesting to see if the winter disrupts his progress as a player after some of his flaws at the plate were exposed late last season. As good as he is at such a young age, Machado needs to show more patience at the plate (only 38 walks in 912 career plate appearances) and hit only .239 in the final three months of last season, making his late-season knee injury that much more frustrating in robbing him of the ability to simply hone his craft this winter.

1. RHP Kevin Gausman (3-5, 5.66 ERA, 1.343 WHIP)

For all the discussion about the Orioles failing to land an established veteran starter to anchor the rotation, the 2012 first-round pick taking a giant step forward would be a major shot in the arm to the back end of the rotation. Gausman’s blazing fastball and split-change are plus pitches, but the 23-year-old needs a better feel for a third pitch to give himself the best chance to succeed as a starter. Regardless of where he’s playing, Gausman needs to be pitching every fifth day to develop and should not be in the bullpen as he was in the second half last season. Baltimore hopes that some added bulk to his 6-foot-3 frame will put the righty over the top physically and allow him to put things together quickly at the major league level.

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