In a particularly uneven start to what is supposed to be a breakout campaign, Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman hasn’t had the benefit of his best secondary

In a particularly uneven start to what is supposed to be a breakout campaign, Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman hasn't had the benefit of his best secondary pitch much yet this season.

Gausman's split-fingered fastball and changeup, which are interchangeable at times, have been essentially missing from his arsenal. He's barely throwing it half as often as the career rate of 20 percent that he has enjoyed up to this point, and when he does throw it, it hasn't been as effective. Gausman attributes that to a few reasons.

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"I think it's a little bit of both," he said. "I haven't been facing as many lefties as I was last year, and really, I just haven't had as good of a feel for it this year."

Overall, Gausman's 7.23 ERA and 12 walks to go with 13 strikeouts belie a pitcher who doesn't have it quite all there so far. He said after he didn't make it out of the third inning Tuesday in Cincinnati that it was a mechanical problem with his hip opening up too early, and that's making all of his pitches less effective.

"It kind of goes back to what I said after my last start, just a little mechanically off, so when I did throw it, it didn't have the same action that it had in the past," he said. "But I threw a great bullpen and I think I'm on the right track. It's definitely a pitch that I'm going to lean on a lot. When I don't have that pitch, it's definitely challenging, especially against left-handed hitters. Just more mechanically than anything. I think that's why I've been a little bit off on it."

The Boston Red Sox could offer some challenging left-handed batters in Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland on Sunday, and with switch-hitters, he could face as many as seven lefties.

He'll need that off-speed pitch to be in vintage form, and he'll need that without having thrown it often this year. Gausman typically shelves the pitch early in spring training to prevent blisters, and only throws it late to build up some rough skin and prevent them as the season goes on. It's better for his long-term availability over the course of the season, even if it creates short-term frustration.

"It's just one of those things where I didn't want it to [push it]," he said. "I wanted to throw it a couple times and have that buildup I need to have it protect my finger. Some guys, they don't care about that and you've seen some of them go on the DL for blister issues. I never want to be one of those guys."

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