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Kevin Gausman learning how to pitch in majors, plus other notes

Right-hander Kevin Gausman keeps maturing before our eyes.

And Orioles manager Buck Showalter may have paid the 24-year-old Gausman the ultimate compliment after the Orioles' 2-0 victory against the Boston Red Sox on Monday night.

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"He pitched as much as threw today," Showalter said.

We all know that Gausman routinely can throw his fastball at 97 mph and can reach back for a little extra juice when necessary. But on Monday he didn't rely solely on his four-seam fastball. He mixed his pitches effectively, specifically his split-fingered fastball.

In his sixth and final inning, Gausman struck out Travis Shaw and Pablo Sandoval on near-identical 85-mph splitters.

"I thought he had probably his best secondary stuff of the year," Showalter said.

Gausman allowed just two hits and struck out seven in six scoreless, but it was far from a perfect outing. He walked four batters and threw 29 pitches in the first inning.

"Four walks isn't great, but I felt like I pitched well with runners in scoring position, got myself out of some jams," said Gausman, who is now 3-6 with a 4.15 ERA. "I knew after the first inning I probably wasn't going to be able to go the distance. But those are situations where you just got to keep it scoreless for as long as you can."

Perhaps that's the most encouraging thing about Gausman's start. He threw way too many pitches in the first inning, but he settled down and made it through six.

That should be the biggest takeaway from Monday night for Gausman as he learns how to compete and survive in every major league outing.

** Don't want to kick a fan base while it's already dealing with the potential of a long offseason. But Eduardo Rodriguez showed last night why he was once considered among the best pitching prospects in the Orioles organization in 2014. And he also demonstrated why the Boston Red Sox coveted him enough to give up reliever Andrew Miller to a division rival for its pennant push.

We all know how this ended up. Miller helped the Orioles get to the ALCS last year and then signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the New York Yankees.

Rodriguez, 22, is becoming one of the better young lefties in the American League. On Monday night, he allowed one run on five hits and three walks while striking out a career-high nine batters in 5 1/3 innings. He was charged with the loss and fell to 9-6 on the year.

But Rodriguez's ERA is now under 4.00 (3.94) in his first 109 2/3 innings in the majors. He snapped a personal three-game winning streak and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in his last five starts.

Even knowing all that, I'd make the Miller trade again. He was the missing ingredient for that Orioles team to make a deep run into the playoffs. In fact, if the Orioles hadn't dealt Rodriguez for Miller, the Detroit Tigers likely would have landed Miller. And the difference between the Orioles and the Tigers in the 2014 ALDS was the bullpens.

Still, the Orioles have not done particularly well in developing starting pitching. And they've never signed a Venezuelan amateur and then had that player make the majors for them.

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So the Rodriguez loss stings -- and could sting more as time goes on.

** Lefty reliever Brian Matusz makes his living getting out left-handed hitters. And he did that again Monday, facing two lefties with two on and one out in the eighth inning. He retired both of them.

It's of note because one of those hitters was David Ortiz, who has been befuddled by Matusz over the years. Ortiz wasn't particularly fooled Monday, smashing a 0-1 fastball to center. But it was right at Adam Jones who caught the liner.

That made Ortiz 3-for-27 (.111 average) with a walk and 13 strikeouts against Matusz in their careers. That's a lot of opportunity for Ortiz, a tremendous hitter, to figure out Matusz. But he still hasn't won many of their battles.

"There's not much secret what each guy is going to do. So it's a tribute to Brian's stuff, his presentation, because Ortiz is tough against left and right," Showalter said. "We were fortunate tonight. He hit a ball on the button and Adam was playing him where he's supposed to be."

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