The Orioles optioned left hander Zach Britton and right-hander Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk after the team's 8-4 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
The club will make a pair of corresponding moves before tonight's game — one will be activating left-hander Wei-Yin Chen from the disabled list to start.
The move to option Britton was expected. Regardless of how well he pitched in Tuesday's start — he allowed five runs on eight hits over five innings — next week's All-Star break allows the team to send him to the minors, get a start for Norfolk, fulfill the mandatory 10-day option window and the Orioles can recall him for the start of the second half of the season.
As for Gausman, he had flourished in his new bullpen role since being recalled on June 24, throwing eight scoreless relief innings until the Rangers plated two runs off him Tuesday in the seventh. He can also return after the All-Star break, but it's unclear whether the Orioles will keep him in Triple-A where he can start.
Before Tuesday's game, Gausman said he enjoyed the bullpen role.
“I think it helps more being up here and being at this level and just kind of logging innings,” he said. “I think it's kind of helping me to learn how to pitch at this level more than anything. I'm going at hitters more than I was when I was a starter. I'm being more aggressive, going after them and trying to get quick outs. I feel good about it. I'm still learning how to be out there and stuff, but it's been fun.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter had said Gausman was needed in the bullpen more by necessity. There's no doubt that Gausman's future is as a starter, but having him log major league innings and gain confidence against big league hitters has been valuable. The Orioles have also been down a right-handed arm since dealing Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs last week.
“You're trying to balance what's best for the Orioles and what's better for Kevin's development,” Showalter said. “That's a constant, not a juggling act, but two factors that you keep in mind all the time when you try to do what's best for all parties.”
Among the options on the 40-man roster, left-handers Tsuyoshi Wada and Mike Belfiore are the most likely to join the club. Wada last started Friday, so he would be available Wednesday, and Belfiore has made two previous trips to the big league club when an extra arm was needed, but he didn't make an appearance.
Britton entered Tuesday night with a 2-1 record and 2.74 ERA in four starts since being recalled from Triple-A in mid-June. On the year, he’s 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA in six starts, allowing 41 hits in 34 innings.
Gausman was 1-3 with a 6.21 ERA in nine games (five starts) with the Orioles.
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft made five starts from May 23 to June 13, posting an 0-3 record and 7.66 ERA before being optioned back to Norfolk for bullpen help following a 13-inning win against Boston on June 13.
He was recalled June 24 to provide bullpen depth and appeared in four games in relief, recording his first major league win with 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief against the New York Yankees on June 28.