Kevin Gausman pitching well in three starts since returning to Norfolk

With every start he makes for Triple-A Norfolk, Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman is making his case for a return to the Orioles rotation.

Gausman, who last pitched Friday, is 1-2 with a 2.93 ERA in his past three starts for the Tides, and a few more starts like he has made recently will likely increase the clamor for a follow-up to his May 14 start against the Detroit Tigers.

In his first start back in Triple-A on May 20, Gausman cruised through four innings against Charlotte before he ran into trouble in the fifth. A pair of doubles scored the first run, and with two runs already in, Gausman allowed a home run to Josh Phegley to put the Knights ahead, 4-3.

The final line didn’t flatter Gausman — four runs and six hits in five innings, with five strikeouts — but it set the foundation for two more solid starts in May. On May 25, Gausman allowed just a pair of singles through the first four innings, and he was pulled one batter into the seventh with no runs and just four hits allowed in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out just three, but appeared to pitch well to contact and keep the ball on the ground.

That stretch continued for Gausman on Friday, when he went four innings against a stacked Pawtucket lineup and struck out seven while allowing two runs (one earned) and three hits.

He’ll continue to walk the fine line of developing a consistent breaking ball to go along with his fastball and outstanding changeup, but doing so on a limited pitch count to make sure he’s available late in the season. It’s hard to get a third pitch going without facing a lineup multiple times, but if Gausman can do that, his next trip to Baltimore could be permanent.

Knuckleball weather arriving in Norfolk

Don’t look now, but Eddie Gamboa’s knuckleball is starting knuckle in Norfolk.

Gamboa, who faces Pawtucket tonight, is coming off his longest start of the season on May 28, when he allowed two earned runs and two hits in eight innings en route to a win over Lehigh Valley.

Before that, Gamboa went five shutout innings against Gwinnett. Knuckleballs are notoriously fickle, and they don’t get the same kind of break in cold weather, so Gamboa could be benefiting from the warmer weather in Norfolk.

He entered May with a 5.40 ERA, but posted a 3.86 ERA in six May starts. The Orioles are committed to developing a knuckleballer, and Gamboa is closest to the majors. But I’m guessing Gamboa, who is one of the all-time good guys and deserves a shot in the big leagues, will have to show much more consistent success before he debuts his knuckler for Baltimore.

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