KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Orioles rookie right-hander Tyler Wilson, who has pitched well in a long-relief role this season, will make his first start of the season Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.
The move will allow the club to cover itself with long relief bullpen help and still activate two pitchers coming off the disabled list -- left-handed reliever Brian Matusz on Saturday and right-hander Kevin Gausman to start Monday.
Wilson has allowed just one run over eight relief innings in three appearances this season, posting a 1.12 ERA. He last pitched on Tuesday, when he allowed his first earned run of the season in a two-inning, 44-pitch outing against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that right-hander Vance Worley – who was also considered to start Saturday — and left-hander T.J. McFarland will be available in long relief for Friday's series opener in Kansas City. But Showalter would likely lean on McFarland over Worley if a long man is needed.
That's because McFarland could then be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk to activate Matusz, who could also give the Orioles bullpen some length after pitching four and three innings in his final two rehab outings.
The Orioles could then option either Wilson or right-hander Mike Wright, who is slated to start on Sunday, to make room for Gausman.
"Vance, we don't want him to start and we are sitting here on Sunday or Monday without a long reliever," Showalter said. "If you think through some of the moves that have to be made, what's the best way to keep our bullpen arms healthy and continue to have our bullpen guys available."
The team's complicated bullpen puzzle aside, Showalter also said that Wilson's performance in the bullpen has merited the opportunity to start. Wilson competed for a rotation spot this spring, but made his first Opening Day roster as a reliever.
"He's not too far removed," Showalter said. "He's right where he needs to be. Physically, he's in as good as shape as anybody. So, we'd like to get him out [there]. It presents better to cover him over the next four, five days if we are covering the areas we need to have covered. We will be in good shape unless we get two or three short outings out of our starters, which, I don't care how you do a bullpen, [it] won't work.
Gausman ready to go: The team thought Gausman, who opened the season on the DL with right shoulder tendinitis, needed a third minor league rehab start before being activated, and the right-hander said Wednesday's outing for Triple-A Norfolk helped alleviate any mental hurdles he was facing leading up to his return.
"Last time out in Charlotte was the first time I was really letting it go with confidence that there was nothing wrong and that I was going to be fine," Gausman said. "Mentally, I think anytime you get hurt, the first time you really have to get past that threshold of feeling like, 'OK, I'm going to let this one go.' Once you get past that, you should be all right."
Gausman will be activated from the DL to make his season debut Monday in Tampa Bay. He went 5 2/3 innings for Norfolk on Wednesday, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out nine and walking two, a solid performance after making previous shorter starts for Double-A Bowie and then high Class-A Frederick.
"I think I just knew that physically I felt great. Ball was coming out really well," he said. "The other times I just didn't know how I was going to be when I took the mound. So warming up, it was really, 'OK, do I need to throw more or throw less?' In Charlotte the other night just felt comfortable with whatever I was doing. Felt good and the ball was coming out good. That [was important] more than anything."
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Davis walking on by: Chris Davis' four-walk night on Thursday gave him a majors-leading 15 walks heading into Friday's series opener in Kansas City.
"He's been in a real comfort area, you can tell, especially with the cast around him, knowing he doesn't have to do everything," Showalter said. "Very few guys consistently beat him up in the strike zone. I think as you evolve as a player and you kind of step back. … Guys step back in the offseason and take a look at things and realize, 'Hey I'm not going to let them get me out outside of the strike zone.'"
Davis' walk total is part of the entire team's more patient approach at the plate. Davis' .390 on-base percentage is just third among starters behind Manny Machado's .462 and Mark Trumbo's .414 and the Orioles went into Friday leading the American League with a .352 OBP as a team.
"Certainly, he's not sneaking up on anybody," Showalter said. "I know he takes special satisfaction when they walk him and Trum or Matt [Wieters] or whoever is hitting behind him hurt 'em because he's as much a part of what happens in that situation as the guy who's hitting the ball."
Around the horn: The Orioles will play their makeup game in Texas on June 20 at 8 p.m. ET. … LF Joey Rickard's three-hit game on Thursday made him the third Orioles rookie in the last 20 years to record three hits in consecutive games. Nick Markakis (2006) and Wieters (2009) were the others. … The Orioles bullpen went into Friday's game with a 1.94 ERA, the second-best mark in the majors.