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Orioles pregame: Kevin Gausman to start Tuesday, Bud Norris demoted to bullpen

CHICAGO — The Orioles officially demoted struggling veteran Bud Norris to the bullpen, making way for right-hander Kevin Gausman to remain in the starting rotation.

Before the Orioles 3-2 loss to the White Sox on Saturday, manager Buck Showalter said that Gausman would start Tuesday's game at Minnesota, while Norris would be used as the team's right-handed long reliever.

Norris then made his fourth career relief appearance — his first since 2013 — on Saturday, retiring the first seven batters he faced, but dealt a tough-luck loss when his eighth-inning leadoff walk came around to score the game-winning run.

Showalter spoke with Norris before Friday's series opener in Chicago, telling him that he was being sent to the bullpen.

"Bud's done some good things for us and will again," Showalter said. "Right now, we have a need for him to pitch out of the bullpen, something that he could really help us with. I don't have much doubt that he'll be starting again for us. It might be a good little step back for us. I know he doesn't agree with it, but I understand that. That's the competitive nature in all of us."

Before Saturday's game, Norris admitted he was frustrated, but didn't have much to say about being moved to the pen.

"I'm going to go down there and pitch," Norris said. "And when I get called on, I'm going to do the best job I can."

Norris, who won a career-high 15 games last season, had gone 2-7 with a 6.79 ERA and recorded just three quality starts in 11 outings this season before Saturday's relief appearance. He is making $8.8 million this year in his final season before free agency.

"He's not the first one this has happened to," Showalter said. "It's not like the baseball gods are picking on him. He'll be all right. He's professional and he knows how important that role is. I'll give him some time. It's tough. You do take it personal, mostly because you want to be a contributor like he's been in the past. Like I told him, he's the guy we picked to pitch Game 3 trying to get to the World Series. We certainly have confidence in him, but he's capable of a lot better level than he's pitching at right now."

Norris was one of the Orioles' best pitchers last season after the All-Star break, going 8-2 with a 3.27 ERA in 13 second-half starts. He also tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in series-clinching Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the Tigers.

Showalter said Norris would be the team's first option to fill a rotation hole if one arises.

"We're all very lucky here," Showalter said. "We're being paid well. It's a great job. ... Bud is going to have a good career and a great life. This is just a bump in the road that he's probably had tougher things happen to him in his life. I have confidence that he'll come in and do the job we're in need of. That's as important a job as any."

Showalter was pleased with Norris' first relief outing on Saturday.

"Real impressive," Showalter said. "We felt like it might play like that potentially. I'm sure he might make some starts for us before the year is over, but the club has a need there and he served it real well today. I'm proud of him."

As for Gausman, who tossed 6 1/3 shutout innings against Texas on Thursday, the Orioles will finally get their top young pitcher on a regular five-day routine.

"It's important for us, too," Showalter said. "We like Kevin and we like all our pitchers and we think he's a guy on a given night that gives us a good chance to win. As evidenced by his last outing and a lot of outings. He's been doing it for a while. Obviously we are all about this year and today's game and tomorrow's game but you are thinking down the road, too.

"We said all along that he controls it and he did," Showalter added. "We are trying to run our best five starters out there and right now we think Kevin is one of them. … [We] wanted him to get a consistent routine."

Orioles sign 10 international free agents

The Orioles made 10 recent international free-agent signings, including 25-year-old Cuban first baseman Yasiel Mederos.

The team signed six players out of Venezuela: catcher Juan Alvarado, catcher Fernando Ayala, catcher Carlos Mendez, shortstop Kipper Brieno, shortstop Frank Gonzalez and shortstop Jose Sanchez.

The Orioles also inked Dominican third baseman Bryan Ciriaco and outfielder Marcos Estevez, as well as Cuban outfielder Romero Reynier.

The international free-agent signing period began Thursday.

Around the horn

The Fourth of July jerseys and caps the Orioles wore on Saturday were autographed and are now being auctioned off on the team website (orioles.com/auction) until July 11 at 10 p.m. Proceeds will go to the Orioles Charitable Foundation. … The Orioles are 11-12 in one-run games and 4-28 when scoring four runs or less this season. … Chris Davis has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games, going 12-for-42 and hitting .286 over that stretch.

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