Orioles manager Buck Showalter confirmed that right-hander Kevin Gausman will start Wednesday's game in New York, meaning the team will have to make another roster move to create room for the 24-year-old that has shuttled between the minors and majors again this year.
Showalter wouldn't commit to giving Gausman the rotation spot for the remainder of the year, but it's clear it's his if he pitches well. Showalter, though, hedged for the record.
"It could be here or Norfolk or Bowie, we want to make sure his innings get built up and he ends up in a place where he can take the steps necessary as the future unfolds," Showalter said. "We want to solve that and give us a chance to win up here."
Gausman, the club's top pick in 2012, is 1-1 with a 5.00 ERA in 11 games (three starts) for the Orioles this year. On Friday, he started at Triple-A Norfolk, allowing two earned runs and striking out eight in six innings. He has allowed just two runs in his past 14 innings at Triple-A.
"He threw well again last night and that was kind of the hope and plan all along," Showalter said about Wednesday's start. "Just wanted to see how things went down there."
With Gausman's promotion this week, a position player is expected to come off the 25-man roster, Showalter confirmed, though he added "some things can happen between now and then." Showalter said he and executive vice president Dan Duquette agree that the club does not want to go back to a six-man bullpen, which the Orioles dealt with in the first half.
"Everybody knows, Dan knows, that sooner or later you're going to be at seven if you try to go with six [relievers]," Showalter said.
Unless the Orioles demote reserve infielder Ryan Flaherty, who has minor league options remaining — and that doesn't seem like a likely scenario given his defensive flexibility — it's almost certain that they'll have to trade or release one of their current corner outfielders. It's a "very similar" situation to earlier this month, Showalter said, when they designated Delmon Young for assignment and ultimately released him.
At this point, the Orioles have several outfielders jockeying for playing time, specifically in left field now that Chris Davis seemingly has seized the right-field job. That group includes Nolan Reimold, David Lough, Travis Snider, Steve Pearce and Chris Parmelee, who has been playing primarily first base, but also could be a candidate to be designated. All five cannot be sent to the minors without passing through waivers and none has separated himself offensively.
"Tough one, huh?" Showalter said. "They are all tough."
With the lack of production in left field — through the first half, Orioles left fielders combined for a .223 average, .286 on-base percentage and a .352 slugging percentage, all among the worst marks in the American League — one possibility is 26-year-old Dariel Alvarez.
The problem, Showalter said, is that another roster spot, beyond what has to happen Wednesday for Gausman, will have to be created for Alvarez. And the Orioles would prefer not to lose another one of their current outfielders.
"It's not like these guys haven't been good in given periods. We just haven't really had that consistency out of that spot we had hoped to have," Showalter said. "But Dariel's having a good year, learning things every day, still has got some hiccups here and there, like we all do. But I'm glad he's one of us."
Alvarez entered Saturday hitting .283 with 13 homers and 48 RBIs in 361 at-bats for Norfolk; heading into Saturday night, he was hitting .357 in his past 14 games. He had only walked seven times all season, however, limiting his on-base percentage to .306.
"It's something they harp to him about all the time and he's aware of it," Showalter said about Alvarez's low OBP. "But he's having a good year. It's not like he is 20 years old, he's what, 26? It may not be in his DNA, so to speak. We're trying to make [plate discipline] a part of it, but you can't force it."
Davis cementing right-field spot
Davis was in the starting lineup in right field again Saturday, his 16th start there in his past 17 games. He has played well there, making several nice catches in right on Friday, and it keeps his power bat in the lineup.
So is the club's primary first baseman over the past two seasons now its regular right fielder?
"I wouldn't call him anything. If we need to put a brand on it, he is [the right fielder] tonight," Showalter said Saturday. "It's kind of who we are. I don't know about left field — wouldn't do that to him if I can help it. It just tells you how valuable he is and it makes people, not only us but in baseball, aware of how versatile and valuable he is."
Davis is a free agent at season's end and his ability to play both positions likely increases his marketability. That could also be true of his trade market if the Orioles feel they are out of the race by the end of the month.
Around the horn
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who missed most of the first half with a knee injury, started again Saturday and Showalter said it's possible Schoop could start again Sunday. That would be the first time he started in three consecutive games since returning from the disabled list and Showalter said he has no concerns about doing that in the second half. … The rotation for the upcoming New York Yankees series will be Wei-Yin Chen on Tuesday, Gausman on Wednesday and Ubaldo Jimenez on Thursday. … Matt Wieters entered Saturday's game with the second-best regular-season average (.366) against Detroit ace David Price among all players with at least 40 at-bats versus the left-hander. Only Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (.375) has a higher mark.