Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman will make his first start of the second half tonight against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards — having been given a couple extra days of rest coming out of the all-star break and looking to build on a strong first half.
Gausman has traditionally been a pitcher who gets better as the season goes along, his second halves often better than before the break. Even though the Orioles have struggled, Gausman recorded one of his best first halves of his career, posting a 4.33 ERA and 10 quality starts in 19 outings this season.
This time last year, Gausman had a 5.85 ERA at the break and was trying to pull his way out of a first-half rut. Gausman remembers throwing three bullpens — all max effort — during the break last year. But this season, he spent most of the break resting his arm. After making his last start on July 12, Gausman didn’t throw again for a whole week, throwing for the first time Thursday at the Orioles’ workout day in Toronto.
“I took the whole break. I got some treatment, did some running, but throwing wise I took it completely off,” Gausman said. “I’m in a different situation than I was last year where at the break last year, I was really struggling and I was really frustrated with myself. …This year it’s a little different. I feel really good with where I’m at. My mechanics feel good. Everything feels good. … I just tried to take the time [off] to kind of recuperate my body. … Came back and I felt like it was spring training. Ball was coming out really good. It’s amazing what just a few days of not throwing can do for you.”
While the focus has been on trading the Orioles' pending free agents before this month's nonwaiver trade deadline, the focus is likely to shift to its top long-term assets, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy.
“I think last year in the second half, my mentality was really good,” Gausman said. “I told myself, ‘Hey, I’m having a pretty crappy year with what I think I’m capable of doing. So in the second half, my mentality was screw it, I’m already at this point. If I continue to pitch this way, it will just be a complete waste of the year and I won’t have anything to look back on and say that I learned.’ So that was the biggest thing about last year. I think I learned that no matter how deep of a hole I get into that I’m good enough to get out of it. I want to have that mindset this second half because I had a great second half last year. So yeah, I’m not at the same point. I guess we’ll see, but I want to have that same mindset I had last season.”
Still, Gausman goes into the second half with the Orioles in a different place than he’s used to. In 2016, he started the final game of the regular season with a trip to the postseason on the line. This year, the Orioles’ second half will be void of many meaningful games with the club buried in the American League East standings.
“I’ve always gotten better as the season goes on. That’s always comforting to know. But at the same time, [this year] I wanted to concentrate on being better earlier so I could be at my best late,” Gausman said. “Obviously with this season we’re having here, there’s not going to be many meaningful games in September as far as the standings go, so it’s a little different. But the goal is to make every start every year and be consistent every five days.
“As a starting pitcher, if you can do that and stay consistent and feel good, that’s all you can ask for. … So yeah, it’s completely different, but all you can do is go out there and compete. We’re kind of playing for our pride more than anything right now.”