Considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, Kevin Gausman began to show the potential that he has at the big league level as a starting pitcher earlier this season, but the Baltimore Orioles continue to mishandle the prospect in how they are bringing him along.
Gausman has made five starts for the Orioles this season, three of which have been phenomenal and the other two not so much, but there is a common denominator in the two poor starts for Gausman. Unusual routine.
The first start he made this season came against the Detroit Tigers on May 14 and it came as a bit of a surprise because the Orioles were asking a 23 year old who has been a professional pitcher for less than two years to pitch on three days rest as he started for the Norfolk Tides the prior Saturday. Gausman threw 77 pitches through 4 2/3 innings in that start the Saturday prior the 77 pitches he threw in that start were a season high for him at that point as the Orioles have had Gausman on a pitch count early this season in order to make sure he would be available to the big league club in the second half of the season. Thus you were having him start on short rest, with a pitch count and coming off of a start where he threw more pitches than he had in any other start this year, thus likely to be more fatigued.
Sticking with the theme of focusing on that Saturday start, it was the first for Gausman since coming off of the Minor League disabled list as he was dealing with pnemonia. In fact, his last start prior to Saturday came two weeks earlier on April 26th, thus you were asking a guy to pitch on short rest after throwing a season high in pitches and only had one start under his belt since coming off the DL, that just doesn't seem fair to the kid. He was optioned after the start.
He was then recalled on June 7 to make the start against the Oakland A's and he began a three start sequence that saw him allow just two runs over 19 innings pitched in those three starts and won all three, but after the third start he was optioned as the Orioles needed another arm in the bullpen and the move made sense as it pertained to the bullpen. Baltimore would be able to have him start on June 27 as the Orioles were scheduled for a double header and are permitted to add a 26th player to the roster, which they used for Gausman.
The problem for Gausman when he made his start on June 27 is that it had been nine days since his previous start, which is a long wait for any starter. Baltimore had him throw one inning on June 23 for the Norfolk Tides in order to "stay fresh", but how can a pitcher work on his craft and stay crisp when he is only allowed one inning and knows going in that he is only going to throw one inning or the more aptly named "shortened start"? Gausman struggled with both his command and his velocity in that start on June 27 and it was easily visible that the long layoff had hurt him and he even mentioned after the start that the nine days between starts was unusual, but wouldn't use it as an excuse. Pretty easy to read between the lines there.
Despite being eligible to be recalled this week mid-week, the Orioles instead are going to have him make yet another "shortened start" tonight for the Aberdeen Ironbirds and he could be named the starting pitcher for Sunday, July 6. Do the math here, his last regular start was on June 27, which is yet another nine day break in between starts for him.
We want to make a few things clear here. First off, we understand that these guys are professional baseball players and understand some fans arguments that the players need to be ready when they are called upon, but understand this, when it comes to a starting pitcher, their routine is vastly important and when you keep screwing with a starters routine, success is almost unattainable. Secondly, we also understand that the roster is a big reason for these odd circumstances for Gausman's starts and he is the one that has options remaining and make him the easy move when another roster spot is needed, but again, when he showed you that when in the actual rotation, pitching every fifth day, that he can be very successful, why mess with it?
Now one thing that these long breaks are doing is limiting the amount of innings he is throwing early in the season, which seems to be a big thing with organizations these days in order to try and limit injuries and have your young arms available down the stretch. We get that, and understand it to a point.
Ultimately, our argument isn't that the team shouldn't be trying to keep the bullpen fresh or preserving Gausman's arm, but that by consistently presenting Gausman with these bizarre circumstances, you are reducing the probability that he will succeed.
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