The Orioles announced in the wee, wee hours of Saturday morning (a 12:24am press release) that they have optioned Kevin Gausman to Triple-A Norfolk. My immediate reaction to this news is that they hate you, me, and everyone.
Stepping back to attempt a more measured response, it's been apparent since Miguel Gonzalez returned from the disabled list that the Orioles would not be able to go for long with six starting pitchers and six relievers on the roster. The simple fact is that Gausman is the one who it's easiest for them to send packing for now, and so here he goes.
This was something of a surprise move in the sense that it was not telegraphed ahead of time by the beat writers; they seem to have found out either by the same press release or not long before it. But unless one of the other five starters had an injury, or the Orioles could conjure up a real-seeming fake injury to either Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez (either of whom might well be battling something that's making them be awful), they were going to have to do something. You can't get by for long with six relievers.
There was no immediate word who the Orioles would be calling up to replace Gausman on the roster in the short term. Pitchers on the 40-man who are not already in the majors are: Tim Berry, Brad Brach, Dylan Bundy, Preston Guilmet, Steve Johnson, Evan Meek, and Suk-min Yoon.
Berry was used not long ago as a one-day fill-in; it's not likely they'd use him when they are looking for a more permanent solution. Bundy is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, currently doing rehab with short-season Aberdeen. Johnson hasn't pitched since May 13 due to an injury. Yoon has been working as a starter, so he's probably not a relief candidate, although it wouldn't be the first time the Orioles just called up Norfolk's next day starter to sit in the bullpen for a while. Also, he kind of hasn't been all that good yet.
Your guess is as good as mine who they will call up out of the above. Brach, Guilmet, and Meek would seem to be the likely choices since they are relievers who have pitched with the Orioles already this year, and are not injured currently. Brach last pitched on Wednesday. Guilmet pitched on Friday. Meek has not pitched since Tuesday. If the goal is most rested reliever, then Meek would be the winner, but they may like what either of the others - or Yoon, for that matter - could offer to the team in the longer haul.
They might even just designate someone for assignment and call up a pitcher who is not currently on the roster. That doesn't seem very likely if only because Norfolk doesn't have a very distinguished corps of non-roster relievers.
Beat writer Dan Connolly of the Sun offers the idea that this may actually be a piece of Duquettian wizardry:
Would imagine Gausman will be back Friday to pitch in doubleheader. They can do that because they can use 26th man rule in split DHs— Dan Connolly (@danconnollysun) June 21, 2014
Teams that have a doubleheader scheduled in advance can use an extra roster spot for the two games, and this can include a pitcher who's been optioned within the past ten days. Ordinarily, Gausman would have to stay in the minors until July 1 unless another player was placed on the DL and he replaced that player. Being the 26th man on a doubleheader roster and being optioned afterwards would not reset the ten day clock, either, according to Connolly.
If that's the case, this is more like a sleight-of-hand trick than an actual demotion. The Orioles pulled something similar, though a doubleheader wasn't involved, on Tillman two years ago, when they sent him to Double-A to make one start during the All-Star Break. They used the spot on a reliever in the meantime, never intending to remove Tillman from the rotation.
With Gausman showing over the last couple of starts that he belongs in the big leagues, hopefully they don't intend to remove him from the O's rotation in this instance either.
If nothing else, at least Gausman got a sweet new Rolex to keep track of how long it's taking him to get back to the minors:
Bud Norris (@BudNorris25) June 20, 2014
Jimenez pays his debts, but stays in the rotation even when he walks six guys in 5.2 innings.