NEW YORK — Kevin Gausman tried his best to look to the future after finding out Tuesday he had been traded to the Atlanta Braves — suddenly thrown into the pennant race, being reunited with former coaches Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti, and the promise of reaching his potential in the National League.
But on his last day as an Oriole, Gausman — who was dealt to the Braves with injured reliever Darren O’Day in exchange for four prospects and international bonus slots — couldn’t help but reflect on the frustration, in his eyes, of not fulfilling the promise placed on him when the Orioles made him the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
“I feel like, to be honest in my time here, I don’t feel like I pitched to my abilities,” Gausman said. “It’s unfortunate to say that. I really feel like I had two years here where I was [pitching] to the best of my ability.”
Despite a pedestrian 4.43 ERA, Gausman was the Orioles’ top starter in 2018. He altered his mechanics early in the season and had 11 quality starts in 21 games. After struggling over the first half of seasons throughout his career, Gausman posted his best first half of his career, and as a pitcher with a track record of getting better as the season went along, was looking forward to having his most consistent all-around season. Now if that happens, it will be in another uniform.
“After talking to their GM, they felt real strongly about my presence, to be able to come in and pitch a lot of innings,” Gausman said. “I think part of it was the success that I had in the second half. I think a lot of teams looked at that and needed a big arm in the second half and I’m sure that had something to do with that also.”
Whether the Orioles gave up on Gausman, who was under team control for two more season beyond this one, remains to be seen. But they never approached him about an extension to be a part of the team’s rebuild. And of the six veterans the Orioles traded, he was the one who projected to be with the club the longest.
In Gausman’s first year as a full-time starter in 2014, he posted a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts, in part because the team shuttled him to the minors six times. That was reality for Gausman, whose first three seasons were full of trips between Baltimore and the minors, which is one reason he remained controllable for so long.
Once that stopped in 2016, Gausman assembled his best season, going 9-12 with a 3.61 ERA in 30 starts, a season in which pitched under Wallace and Chiti, the former Orioles pitching and bullpen coaches, respectively.
Gausman is now one pace to make 30 starts for his third straight season, and recently expressed pride in the fact that he recently made his 100th straight start.
“I was part of some really good teams here,” Gausman said. “The last two years have been real frustrating, both on us and on the fans, and I think on our staff, too. Unfortunately, that’s the way I’m going out. I was a part of 2014 [the team that reached the American League Championship Series]. I had some big innings in the playoffs. I was part of one of the teams that kind of brought quality baseball back to Baltimore. That ’14 team was special.”