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Orioles observations: Gausman the third time through, Wright's role, and opt-out decisions

Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman is at his best when he’s able to locate his fastball – particularly down and away – and use his arsenal of secondary pitches off that. And while Gausman battled through a 22-pitch first inning Wednesday night, he found his command in the Orioles’ 10-4 series-clinching win over the New York Yankees at Camden Yards.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter put it well in saying that Gausman bent but didn’t break against a dangerous lineup, escaping some tough situations that had him close to another blown lead.

“I had a good feel for all my pitches for strikes and for chase,” Gausman said. “Fastballs I was trying to go up and just left them down. They put some good swings together and laid off some really tough pitches, so they definitely gave me a handful.”

Gausman has something to build on after Wednesday’s win, but he also continues to struggle the third time through the order. The third time through Wednesday the Yankees went 4-for-8 with two doubles, two singles, two RBIs and a walk. For the season, opponents are hitting .400 (28-for-80) against Gausman in his third time through the order, and 14 of those hits are for extra bases – nine doubles and five homers.

Gausman allowed two runs in the fifth inning, giving up hits to four of the first five batters he faced, most of those hits coming the third time through. And three of those hits came on first pitches, two on fastballs.

Thoughts about Wright's role

Right-hander Mike Wright allowed a two-out double to Aaron Judge but struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning.

His performance meant that interim closer Brad Brach could be saved for another day, which is important with four games against Boston starting Thursday night. And because Wright threw just 17 pitches, he remains available in the coming days; otherwise, he might have been shuttled back to Norfolk after the game.

“People say, ‘That’s a 10-4 game,’ ” Showalter said. “That’s a 2-1 game in his mind, the way guys are pitching. If he ends up throwing 30, 40 pitches and we have to get Brad in, guess what happens to him tomorrow? They know. I think there’s a certain amount of pressure involved in that game even though some people don’t think so or wouldn’t think so.”

It will be interesting to see whether Wright has an extended stay. The Orioles have insisted on developing him as a starter, but there’s always been a belief among some in the organization that he should be a reliever.

“That’s always been in everybody’s mind, including mine, that if it didn’t work out, that is where we felt like he could fall, but because of the premium and the need, we ask everybody to go down the starting role first,” Showalter said.  “The first topic when you’re talking about him as a pitcher, you want him to see if he can handle starting. That’s pretty good tonight. I got a text from one of our scouts that reminds me of that all the time. As soon as the game ended, I looked at my phone.”

Decisions due on Alvarez, Jackson

The Orioles will have to make decisions on two players at Triple-A Norfolk who have June 1 opt-out clauses: outfielder Pedro Alvarez and right-handed reliever Edwin Jackson.

Alvarez has 12 homers in 206 at-bats, but he's hitting just .233/.296/.456 and the organization’s experiment to try him in the outfield hasn’t been productive.

He’s put up power numbers, but there is a reason Alvarez remained unsigned in March: he’s basically a left-handed platoon designated hitter. So it will be interesting to see whether he truly tries to find opportunities elsewhere.

Right now, there doesn't seem to be much of a market for him. The Orioles could use his power bat, but they don't need another player with defensive liabilities.

Jackson has a 3.26 ERA for the Tides pitching mainly in multiple-inning relief. Reviews of Jackson in Norfolk are positive, and he fits the long-relief mold better than say, Ubaldo Jimenez, because he can pitch multiple innings regularly without long layoffs.

Basically, he could fill Vance Worley’s long-relief role of last season, but it would be difficult for the club to carry two non-optionable long relievers – Jackson and Jimenez. Bullpen flexibility was one of the reasons the team didn’t bring back Worley.

Usually, a club has 48 hours to add a player to the roster before an opt-out.

eencina@baltsun.com
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