Let’s start with the obvious: the first two starts of Kevin Gausman’s Orioles career didn’t go quite as planned.
The 22-year-old right-hander, who had allowed just six earned runs in his final five starts at Double-A Bowie before the Orioles called him up last week, doesn’t appear to be overwhelmed by being on the biggest stage of his young career. Gausman has gone after big league hitters. The problem is they have gone right back at him, hitting his high heat hard like they were Andre Agassi slapping a 130-mph serve back over the net.
After allowing three home runs in eight starts at Bowie, Gausman allowed three in Tuesday night’s 9-3 loss to the Washington Nationals, who had been struggling so much offensively that superstitious manager Davey Johnson said he would be retiring his razor until his team started hitting again. I don't know if it will be enough for Johnson to shave again, but the Nationals scored seven runs on eight hits in four innings against Gausman.
Gausman is now 0-2 with an ERA of 11, having allowed 11 earned runs in nine innings of work. He has given up four homers, has a WHIP of 2.00 and has struck out just five while walking three.
The starting rotation has been rocky in recent weeks, which explains why the Orioles were desperate enough to call Gausman up in the first place, and they need better than that every fifth day if they want to remain in the race in the American League East.
But they have to let Gausman try to work through his issues at the major league level. Manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday night that the Gausman, the second-ranked pitching prospect in the organization before his call-up, would get at least one more start with the Orioles. And that not only sends a positive message to this young man, but to the hurlers who could potentially replace him.
The Orioles have already started 11 different pitchers -- one fewer than last season -- and we're not even out of May. Jair Jurrjens, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson and Josh Stinson were one-and-done, cast away after struggling in their only starts this season.
The Orioles, realizing that he is at the very least a big piece of the long-term puzzle, have wisely been more patient with Gausman. It is a tough tightrope for them to walk, balancing the present and the future as they sit 3.5 games back in the AL East.
For now, Showalter and the Orioles will continue to wince as Gausman learns the hard way that he can't keep hanging fat fastballs up high in the strike zone. His secondary pitches, specifically his plus changeup, may still be on the way from Bowie to the big leagues. He has a lot to learn, and there is no better place for him to learn it than in the major leagues.
Gausman’s struggles may continue, giving the Orioles no choice but to send him down after another start or two, but at least he will have a good idea of what he needs to do to get back to the show.
Maybe as important, Gausman will know that the Orioles plan to keep giving him every chance to succeed in his young career.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun