FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kevin Gausman likes his new look. After he debuted a new pair of prescription glasses and mowed down a representative Boston Red Sox lineup Saturday night at JetBlue Park, the 23-year-old right hander joked that wearing his new specs can give him a little bit of an alter ego.
“Maybe it will evolve into a piece of tape in the middle,” Gausman said with a smile, referring to the bespectacled Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn played by Charlie Sheen in the baseball movie Major League. "Whatever makes that hitter think, ‘What is this geek doing on the mound?’ And then throw it by them and get some swings and misses.”
Gausman, one of baseball’s top pitching prospects, concedes that there were times last season when he had trouble seeing signs.
“That was one of the things last year,” Gausman said. “I crossed up [catcher Matt] Wieters one too many times, and it’s never good when you have a catcher who doesn’t know if you know what you’re going to throw or he doesn’t know. ... More than anything, it’s getting used to [the glasses]. I like them so far. I have to wear them pretty much the whole day [so that] just when it comes to game time, I’m not just putting them on. I feel pretty good.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter chuckled when asked about Gausman’s glasses, and said Gausman's vision problems were noticed during the annual pre-spring training physicals last month.
“It’s just one less thing you’ve got to worry about,” Showalter said. “They have a pretty detailed eye test in the spring, and they said: 'You know, we can correct this if you want to.' "
Gausman's astigmatism means he has to wear contact lenses for his farsightedness, but he's never been comfortable wearing them while pitching. Last week, Gausman received a pair of prescription glasses to try out. He tested them during workouts, and Saturday was his first time pitching with them.
“My right eye is way worse than my left, which is kind of rare,” Gausman said. “I’ve felt like contacts never really got my prescription right, and when I was at LSU, I just wore one in my right eye and I got migraines all the time, so this is good.”
On Saturday night, Gausman was dominating, allowing just one hit over three scoreless innings. He located his mid-90s fastball well inside to righties and lefties and struck out three of the first four batters he faced — retiring Daniel Nava, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, all swinging, and all on split-fingered fastballs — and retired the first seven batters he faced.
“I knew I was going to try them out today, and if something happened where they kept falling off or anything like that, I would have just gone without them,” Gausman said. “I’ve pitched without them and pitched without contacts before. I knew I’d be fine, but I don’t like going out there and squinting a lot, so that’ s good for me, but more than anything, it was about getting used to them and getting my first game with them out of the way."