LAKELAND, FLA. — Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman has spent this spring training being stretched out as he competes for a spot in the club's starting rotation. But with 10 Grapefruit League games remaining before the regular season starts, innings are becoming increasingly scarce.
And though Gausman had been steadily raising his innings count every outing this spring, reaching the four-inning mark in a minor league game last week, Gausman pitched just one inning in relief in Thursday's 6-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium.
He allowed a two-run homer to Tigers slugger Victor Martinez, an eighth-inning blast on a first-pitch split-fingered fastball from Gausman that ended a 4-4 tie and held up as the game-winner.
After the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it's possible that Gausman opens the season in the bullpen.
“Might bring Gaus' back shorter until everything shakes out,” Showalter said. “I want him to be ready to do both things. There’s a possibility for everybody — really, all options open right now. We’ve got some time to make decisions, dealing from some quality right now. I don’t worry about it a lot because we’re picking from a number of people we like, as opposed to last man standing.”
Last season, all 20 of Gausman's regular-season big league appearances were starts; he went 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA. In the postseason, he worked out of the bullpen and allowed just one run over 8 1/3 innings.
"Yeah, obviously, I think I showed last year that I can pitch out there," Gausman said of working in relief. "I feel good out there, but I also feel comfortable starting, so that's pretty much their decision."
Gausman said he didn't know how long his outing Thursday would be until the game played out.
"They just told me that [Chris Tillman] was starting and there were innings to be had, and said, 'We want you to come,' " Gausman said. "I didn't know if I was going to go multiple innings or just one, but I knew coming out of the 'pen, especially on the road, it could be eight innings."
The Orioles' bullpen is crowded, especially with left-hander Brian Matusz and right-handers Brad Brach and Ryan Webb out of options and Rule 5 picks Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett attempting to make the team as relievers.