By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
6:58 PM EDT, March 23, 2014
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter has talked often this spring about the challenge of selecting the club’s Opening Day roster, saying the best 25 players might not necessarily be the right 25 players to start the season.
And pitching prospect Kevin Gausman could be a primary example of that.
After being successful out of the bullpen for the Orioles last season, the 23-year-old former first-round pick enjoyed a spectacular spring.
But with all five rotation spots slotted and the bullpen not an option given his projected future as a front-line starter, Gausman likely will be heading soon to Triple-A Norfolk to continue to log innings as a starter. That didn’t stop Gausman from leaving a lasting impression Sunday afternoon in what was likely his final spring outing in big league camp.
Gausman allowed just one run and three hits, recording eight strikeouts, over four innings against a Pittsburgh Pirates batting order that included six starters.
“It’s been fun,” Gausman said. “It’s been awesome. It’s been a little different than last year. I kind of feel like this was really my first spring training. Last year, I just kind of felt like, it was every single day I came to the park, I was like, ‘This is probably the day I’ll go down,’ and then, staying around a little bit longer than I thought, and I was pitching well last year.
“This year more than anything, I came into camp wanting to be in great shape, put on some weight in the offseason, and just wanted to hit the ground running.”
On Sunday, Gausman yielded a wind-aided leadoff homer to Starling Marte on the fourth pitch of the game and allowed the first three batters he faced to reach base, but he struck out the side after that to start a span of five strikeouts in seven plate appearances.
“It’s not going to be perfect always in the season,” Gausman said. “It’s good to get in those situations now, so that when it comes this spring or this summer that I have that experience in those situations.”
Following Marte’s homer, Gausman walked Travis Snider and allowed a double off the top of the fence in left field to Andrew McCutchen, but he allowed just one more hit over the rest of his outing.
His fastball sat at 95-96 mph on the stadium radar gun and topped at 98 mph on a handful of pitches, and he mixed in his mid-80s slider and a low-80s changeup.
“I liked the way he came back,” Showalter said. “Most of the time [Gausman] cocks his arm, but he came back and made some good pitches. He’s going to get that a lot. He got it at Yankee Stadium last year. They can ambush him early. Guys can turn around a bullet up here. He’s getting a better feel for slowing guys down.”
Over 11 Grapefruit League innings this spring, Gausman has allowed three runs and seven hits. That doesn’t include a three-inning scoreless stint in a Triple-A game in his previous outing, when he allowed just three hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
Asked what he believed was next for him, Gausman said: “I don’t know. They’ll figure that out.”
When asked if Sunday was Gausman’s final day in major league camp, Showalter said: “We’re not there yet. There’s some good competition going down to the wire.”
Wallace added to minors
The Orioles agreed to terms Sunday with former Houston Astros first baseman Brett Wallace on a minor league contract.
Wallace was at the Ed Smith Stadium complex Sunday to take a physical, and he will report to minor league camp at Twin Lakes Park.
The 27-year-old, who was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2008 draft, hit .221/.284/.431 with 13 homers and 36 RBIs for Houston last season. He was released by the Astros 11 days ago after he was invited to camp as a nonroster player and hit just .143 in 14 spring training at-bats.
Along with David Adams, who was signed by the Orioles on Saturday and was added to the 40-man roster, Wallace will give the club added infield depth. Both players are primary third basemen but also play first base. Adams plays second base as well. But neither will compete for an Opening Day roster spot this late in camp.
Tillman to return Wednesday
Opening Day starter Chris Tillman, who was scratched from his start Friday, said he feels better after a case of the flu and will start in the Orioles’ split-squad game on the road Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Tillman said of the illness. “I’ll tell you that much. It wasn’t good. I just had the stomach flu, I guess. They had a hard time telling whether it was food poisoning or the flu, but I think they settled on the flu. It was really 24 hours of being sick, but 48 hours to kind of recover from it. I feel much better now.”
Showalter said Tillman will have a work day on Monday before making his final spring start ahead of the club’s March 31 season opener.
The Orioles are also playing in a afternoon road game against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday. Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who tossed six scoreless innings on Friday against the Atlanta Braves, will likely start that game.
Around the horn
Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen is scheduled to start in a Triple-A game Monday instead of pitching in the Grapefruit League game against the Red Sox. With Opening Day a week away, Chen not pitching against Boston would seem to indicate that he will start the team’s third game of the season against the Red Sox. That also allows the Orioles to place their only left-handed starter in the middle of the rotation. … Head trainer Richie Bancells ran out to the mound Sunday when Showalter removed left-hander Zach Britton in the eighth inning, prompting concern as to whether Britton was injured, but Bancells just misheard Showalter. … Rule 5 pick Michael Almanzar sat out Sunday’s game with a sore knee after fouling a ball off it. … Catcher Caleb Joseph was reassigned to minor league camp following Sunday’s game. Joseph was 3-for-16 this spring. In another roster move Sunday, Adams was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles now have 41 players remaining in major league camp. … Showalter said he’s noticed more scouts in recent days and a steady number throughout the spring. “A lot of vultures are lurking with our out-of-option guys,” he said. “We’ve got quite an attendance there. I get a list of the scouts every day. If anything, it’s gotten more. We had 17 here the other day.” … The club announced its minor league signing of former Orioles reliever Luis Ayala, who threw a bullpen session at Twin Lakes Park on Sunday. … Showalter said left-hander Troy Patton’s scoreless seventh inning Sunday, in which he hit 93 mph, was his best outing of the spring. … Former Orioles left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason, was released Sunday. He allowed seven earned runs and 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings this spring.
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