Prior to the 2015 season, this set of questions was almost a daily occurrence and made for reliable fodder on local radio stations. Is Kevin Gausman going to be in the Orioles rotation to start the year? If not, then when will he get a spot? Is he better off in the bullpen for another year? It was enough to make your head spin.
Fast forward to the middle of June and the question has become, at least for me, "What the heck are the Orioles doing with Kevin Gausman?"
The right-hander was not given a spot in the starting rotation, but instead was placed in the Oriole bullpen with a role that was to be determined; half long-man, half dependable middle reliever. Whatever it was, Gausman did not pitch all that well. Over eight appearances, he tossed 12 innings, striking out 13, walking five and pitching to a 4.50 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. Not god awful, but nothing to brag about, especially for an arm that was anointed a top-of-the-rotation talent the minute Gausman put pen to paper on his rookie contract.
Now, Gausman finds himself back down on the farm, rehabbing a shoulder injury that has had him on the shelf since May 6. The 24-year-old pitched three scoreless innings for High-A Frederick, but then struggled with Double-A Bowie, allowing four runs over 3.1 innings.
The gaggle of Oriole beat reporters say that the glasses-wearing hurler is set to make at least one more rehab start, again for Frederick, tonight, but it will only last two innings. So, it doesn't seem like much has changed since February. Is he starting or not?
It's a big jump to go from two innings of minor league ball to the six or seven that a big league starter is expected to deliver. Not to mention, the O's bullpen is already a bit overworked, forcing the human resources department to book a ton of airline tickets between Norfolk and Baltimore. Letting a guy build himself up at the big league level does not seem like the wisest decision.
While Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson have both been impressive at times with the O's, they don't provide the upside of Gausman, and with Miguel Gonzalez on the disabled list, this seems like the perfect time to see what Gausman can do to start a game this season. If Showalter fancies keeping Wright, then let him pitch for Chris Tillman. The way that guy is pitching, it's like he is begging to be skipped one time around the rotation.
I suppose the bullpen is an option, but it would seem like, for now, the seventh, eighth and ninth innings belong to Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day and Zach Britton, respectively. So, again, what is his role? Mop up duty in blow outs? Long man? Gausman was great out of the bullpen down the stretch in 2014 and was a big reason why the Orioles won Game Two of the ALDS, but to maximize his worth, I'm of the opinion that he should be a starter.
For me, the best option is to really stretch him out. The easiest way to do that is send him to Norfolk and put him in the rotation until there is a clear spot in Baltimore. Enough of this jockeying back and forth. This would be his third part-of-a-season in the International League, and it would give him the chance to really dominate some good quality hitters.
In the meantime, this allows someone like Bud Norris a month to reclaim the value that was lost with his poor performances at the start of the year. At his best, Norris is somewhere between a 1 and 2 WAR pitcher, something that Gausman is equally capable of doing. The O's can then use Norris as trade bait, bolster the farm system a bit, and then bring up Gausman to take his place. All nice and tidy like that. Ah if all things were so simple.
That is my plan, Camden Chat. What about you? If you were Dan Duquetter or Buck Showalter, how would you handle the Kevin Gausman situation? Tweet me @_TyYoung or let me know in the comments section down below.