Orioles open to using top prospect Kevin Gausman in starting role down the stretch

CLEVELAND -- While top prospect Kevin Gausman has shined in his brief time in the Orioles bullpen, the club is keeping the door open for the 22-year-old right hander to possibly help them as a starter down the stretch.

Gausman threw back-to-back days for the first time since Little League the past two days in New York, throwing a combined three shutout innings against the Yankees, but the Orioles have kept careful watch of his pitch count so that he could be used in either role.

“He can go either way,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We’ve massaged his innings so that he could pitch through the end of October and not have any problems unless he pitches five nine-inning shutouts in a row. And then he’s gets into a little gray area.”

Gausman has thrown 36 1/3 innings with the Orioles and combined for 82 innings between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk for a 118 1/3 total innings.

He’s allowed just two runs over 11 2/3 innings as a reliever, pitching to 2-0 record with a 1.54 ERA, compared to an  7.66 ERA and 0-3 record as a start.

“That’s what’s tough, massaging what’s best for his development and for his physical arm and what’s best for this club,” Showalter said. “We’ve got his innings count under control. We’ll obviously be cautious with the physical part of it, but he doesn’t have very stressful innings so that bodes well for his being able to help us.

Showalter said the situation is fluid. On Sunday, he brought in Gausman in the fifth inning because he didn’t want to make him warm up more than once. An important key, Showalter said, is utilizing the times when Gausman warms up.

“One of the keys is only getting him up one time,” He only threw 11 pitches [Saturday]. It’s different. The intensity of pitching in a game, especially at Yankee Stadium, this time of the year is different. I got him up once. That’s another reason why I brought him in. He wasn’t going to get up again yesterday. He was hot and ready to go. I can’t sit here and tell you how many days off he’s going to need before he’s available again. I’m going to depend on him and [interim pitching coach] Billy [Castro].”

While left-hander Zach Britton, who was recalled Monday, will be available in the bullpen, but Showalter said he could also be used in a starting role this month.

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