FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The stability of the Orioles starting rotation – in which four pitchers essentially had spots locked up – and a Grapefruit League schedule that included a heavy dose of American League East opponents was possibly the best thing that could have happened to Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman.
In Gausman’s first spring camp, he's had a chance to compile innings in major league games because the Orioles didn’t want to pitch their established starters against division competition.
And by the final week of camp, Gausman had impressed enough people inside the Orioles clubhouse to make them confident that he will be a member of the rotation sooner than later.
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“A couple of [Gausman’s] established teammates were saying maybe [division opponents] shouldn’t see him [in spring training],” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Gausman’s days in big league camp are likely numbered after he made his final spring start Tuesday in the Orioles’ 9-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium.
The 22-year-old Gausman, the Orioles’ first-round pick last year out of LSU, allowed three runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and no walks. He threw 69 pitches, 50 of them strikes.
"I’ve learned a lot," Gausman said of his first camp. "[I] probably learned more in my [bullpens] and things like that than [in] the games. Things happen in the game that you can’t really control. But you know, I’ve learned so much, pounding the strike zone, keeping guys off balance, guys at this level you can make great pitches and they are going to hit doubles. So, not much you can do about that."
Gausman said he never expected to still be around this late in camp, but he tried to take advantage of the added opportunity.
To be honest, I thought I was going to be in big league camp for maybe a week or two,” Gausman said. “Right after [top pitching prospect Dylan] Bundy left I thought, 'Alright, a couple more days.' But I’m definitely happy with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a blast. I definitely wasn’t expecting it.”
Gausman showed that he’s a polished pitcher and, as long as the innings were there for him in big league camp, he was going to stay. And Gausman impressed, pitching to a 3.86 ERA in seven spring games, allowing 17 hits and seven runs over 16 1/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and seven walks.
“We felt like he was getting something out of it, and he was competitive with it,” Showalter said. “Not that they wouldn’t down there, but we’re doing the same thing as far as managing his innings, his ups and everything. We’re doing the same things, whether he was here or there. As long as he didn’t seem like a fish out of water or over his head, we could get the same thing done down here because we had the innings for him.”