The Orioles finally made official on Monday what has been apparent for most of spring training: Kevin Gausman will be the starting pitcher on Opening Day. With Chris Tillman headed to the disabled list to start the season, there was never really any other choice, but it’s still exciting that the former #4 overall pick will finally get his chance to anchor a big league rotation.
Another high Orioles draft pick will be following right behind him. Dylan Bundy was announced as the starter for the second game of the season. A one-two punch of Bundy and Gausman hasn’t materialized quite how we always hoped. There should be plenty to cheer about anyway, if they perform how they’re capable of performing.
Gausman, who learned from manager Buck Showalter on Saturday that he would be making the Opening Day start, told reporters that he had an inkling where things were headed because he could count from his work days to Opening Day. “I’m not that bad at math,” he joked.
Tillman has been the starter for the last three Opening Days. This will mark something of a changing of the guard. Gausman is under club control until the 2020 season, so the Orioles, if all goes well, may have their Opening Day starter for the next three years after this. A successful Gausman-Bundy tandem would go a long way to quieting concerns about the rotation’s long-term health.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The O’s starters will first have to get through a couple of games against the Blue Jays and go from there. It won’t be the exact same lineup as last year, but it’s worth noting that Gausman wasn’t good against the Jays, giving up 12 earned runs in 15.1 innings over three starts in 2016.
The good news about that is if we’re really going to get a different and better version of Gausman this season, we could get to see a sign of that on the very first game of the season. The potential bad news is obvious.
Bundy only pitched against the Blue Jays in relief last season, so his first start of the season will be his first start against them. I hold my breath (figuratively) every time Bundy pitches and expect that to continue no matter how well he does this year. The better he does, the more I’ll be holding it, really.
The top two spots of the rotation are full of excitement. The rest, not so much. The third and fourth spots figure to be sewn up by Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez in some order, though Showalter told reporters that he won’t pick the #3 starter until after Miley shows he’s fully healthy in Tuesday’s untelevised spring training game against the Braves.
If Miley doesn’t pass that health check, there may well be another surprise in store for the Orioles rotation beyond just whoever makes it as the fifth starter. Assuming everything goes as expected, Jimenez and Miley will be making their first starts of the year against the Yankees over the first weekend.
Showalter told reporters that he has a “pretty good idea” who will be the fifth starter. He did not announce who that is yet, but he did say that person would not be breaking camp with the club. We’ll just have to wait and see who gets called up on April 15. It may not be Tyler Wilson, who is being considered in the competition for a long relief role.