SARASOTA, FLA. — The Orioles hope their decision to give right-hander Kevin Gausman, who is dealing with lingering tendinitis in his right shoulder, a cortisone injection on Sunday morning will ensure that their top young pitcher will recover in time for the beginning of the season.
But whether Gausman will be ready to be a member of the team's 25-man Opening Day roster is still in doubt.
Gausman had been receiving treatment for shoulder inflammation for the past seven to 10 days, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, but with the club needing to set its rotation by Sunday, Gausman received the injection Sunday. He will need at least 48 to 72 hours to allow the cortisone to take effect before he can think about picking up a baseball again.
The next three days are crucial in determining whether Gausman will be able to make his first scheduled regular-season start.
"I don't know if it's a big concern," Showalter said. "Anytime a guy needs [an injection], he's had some inflammation there, and we just want to get rid of that. We feel good about it structurally. It just hasn't managed to go all away completely, so we have some time here to try to clear it up before we break camp. Hopefully, that's all it is. We'll see where it is in two or three days."
Showalter said the tendinitis is similar to what put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career in May. After making the club as a reliever out of camp, Gausman ended up missing six weeks and returned to the Orioles as a starter and remained there for the rest of the season. A decreased workload — he pitched only 12 innings in the season's first month — was believed to have contributed to the injury.
After being on the shuttle to Triple-A Norfolk earlier in his career and being placed in the bullpen multiple times, Gausman has an unquestioned spot in the starting rotation to open the season for the first time as an Oriole. It is also the first time the Orioles will lift their innings and pitch limits on their 25-year-old right-hander.
Showalter said the team considered giving Gausman an injection last year but ultimately decided against it.
"I don't think he's ever had a shot before," Showalter said. "We just decided to go ahead and do it now. We've got some time to play with. … He almost took an injection last year, but he pitched through it. It wasn't anything structurally wrong. It was just tendinitis that a lot of people get. He was able to pitch through it. [This time,] at this stage, it didn't manage itself, so [head athletic trainer] Richie [Bancells] and the doctors decided to just go ahead and see if we could get it taken care of."
This is the time of spring training when some pitchers go through what's referred to as a "dead-arm period." They feel some soreness because they've gone through a month of throwing after having several months off in the offseason, but Showalter said Gausman's situation appeared to be different.
"He decided to take one just to get it cleared up," Showalter said. "He'll be down for about three days from the injection before we pick back up again. He's been on the treatment list for about a week or so, and just Richie and the doctors and Kevin decided just to try to go ahead and get it out of there while we have time. We'll adjust his schedule a little bit."
Gausman was scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Monday, which is the major league club's only scheduled day off this spring training.
In his last spring training start, Gausman threw three scoreless innings — facing one batter over the minimum and striking out three — against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday before he allowed three runs in the fourth inning, including yielding a two-run homer to Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
"We thought it would manage, and once we reached this date and getting closer to the season, we just wanted to take that precaution to try and let him get that last bit out of there," Showalter said. "That's why we had to do it today. If we waited two or three more days, we wouldn't" have the option.
Showalter said it's possible the club aligns its rotation to give Gausman the maximum number of days to recover and still ensure his spot the first time through the rotation. Because of a day off after Opening Day, the Orioles don't necessarily need a fifth starter until nine games into the season, on April 13.
"If it pushes him back a little bit, instead of [being the] one, two or three [starter], [back] to four or five, we can do that," Showalter said. Sunday "is the day we have to fish or cut bait on the rotation" alignment].