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Orioles may need to consider more than just innings when it comes to Kevin Gausman

If you're trying to make sense of how the Orioles front office is handling top pitching prospect Kevin Gausman -- who was sent back to the minor leagues after another strong start on Sunday -- you're not alone.

Gausman is projected to be a terrific starting pitcher and he has shown every sign of that with four victories in his last five starts, but the club is using him as a human ping-pong ball to make room on the roster for temporary pitching help. The last time he was sent out he struggled in his return outing after reeling off three impressive performances, so it's fair to wonder why it's happening again.

Really, there is only one explanation that makes any sense. The front office has him on a season-long innings limit and is trying to reduce his workload during the first half so that the team won't be faced with a Stephen Strasburg situation in September.

If you recall, the Nationals made the very controversial decision to shut Strasburg down late in 2012 and hold him out of the playoffs, which didn't sit well with fans when the Nats lost the Division Series after winning 98 games during the regular season.

The Orioles don't broadcast innings limits, but they heavily restricted the workload of Dylan Bundy when he began his professional career in hopes of protecting his valuable arm. He ended up having Tommy John surgery anyway and is just getting back into a competitive routine at the minor league level. Certainly, the club would like to avoid that with Gausman, so it's very possible that manager Buck Showalter and baseball operations chief Dan Duquette are using their roster machinations to reduce the number of starts he makes this summer.

There's a case to be made for that, especially since the Orioles already have enough starters with Bud Norris returning from the disabled list, but there's also room to question whether it's a dangerous game to be playing with a young pitcher's psyche. Guess we'll all find out soon enough.

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