Weeks of assuming have finally turned official as the Orioles announced Monday that Kevin Gausman will start on Opening Day.
The right-hander will be making the first season-opening start of his career as veteran Chris Tillman will begin the year on the disabled list, snapping his stretch of three straight Opening Day starts. Gausman will take the ball against Toronto while Dylan Bundy will start the second game of the season, according to manager Buck Showalter.
The Blue Jays will send right-hander Marco Estrada to the hill for next Monday’s opener.
Gausman blossomed into a top-half-of-the-rotation starter in 2016 with a 3.61 ERA in 30 starts covering 179 2/3 innings. His 9-12 record was a direct result of poor run support, but he looked the part of an ace over the final two months of the season by pitching to a 2.83 ERA over his final 12 starts spanning 76 1/3 innings. The breakthrough was no more evident than at Fenway Park on Sept. 14 when he pitched eight shutout innings in a 1-0 win over Boston and on the final day of the regular season when he pitched 7 1/3 strong innings at Yankee Stadium to help the Orioles clinch the second wild card.
It remains to be seen whom Showalter will tab as his fifth starter to begin the season as the Orioles won’t need one until April 15. Gabriel Ynoa and Jayson Aquino have emerged as intriguing candidates after strong Grapefruit League outings over the weekend.
Tillman is not expected to return in the first month of the season as he just began throwing again on Sunday after receiving a cortisone injection in his right shoulder.