SARASOTA, Fla. -- Kevin Gausman’s spring training locker sits along a row next to Orioles veteran pitchers Darren O’Day, Jim Johnson and Jason Hammel.
That placement is strategic – manager Buck Showalter gives a sly grin when asked about it – just like 19-year-old left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez’s locker being next to pitchers Miguel Gonzalez and Pedro Strop.
The plan is for first-time big league campers like Gausman and Rodriguez, two of the Orioles top three pitching prospects, to learn what life is like in the big leagues by example.
“You get to pick their friends initially,” Showalter said. “It’s not what they’re going to do or say. The example is going to be right there.”
Gausman said he's trying to soak it all up. He threw 18 professional innings last season after the Orioles made him their first-round pick last June, but it takes time to get adjusted to the pace of professional baseball. In college, his focus was geared toward starting every Friday. Here, it's a little different.
“All the veteran guys have been really cool,” said Gausman, who this time last year was preparing for his sophomore season at LSU. “They’re really supportive. I’ve met everyone here. It’s kind of cool. You can tell they have a tight-knit bond here. Most of them are younger players and I think that explains why they’re so close. They're a fun group and I like that. I like to joke around. But they get after it.”
O’Day, the sidearm reliever who is one of the clubhouse’s jokesters, has already given Gausman the nickname “Dunkin’” because of how Gausman would eat powered mini-donuts between innings when he pitched.
Over the first two days of camp, Gonzalez and Strop, two Latin pitchers who have overcome their share of obstacles to become key major league arms, were often seen with Rodriguez -- a Venezuelan-born prospect -- in and outside of the clubhouse.
Last spring training, top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy’s locker was placed near the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Brian Matusz. He has a similar spot this spring.
Gausman and Rodriguez threw their first bullpen sessions of the spring on Thursday side by side on the in the final group of pitchers.
When Showalter was asked his first impressions of Gausman and Rodriguez, he said he purposely didn’t pay too much attention, leaving pitching coach Rick Adair to evaluate.
“I kind of purposely kept my distance from it,” Showalter said. “I’m probably not a good evaluator. Rick said it went well.”
Instead, he’d rather let the young pitchers learn from the examples they see in the Orioles clubhouse.