It's no secret that the Orioles' Achilles heel this season has been starting pitching. It's a team with flaws, but more than anything, you can point to an inability to have starters go deep enough in games as one of the biggest reasons for a struggle. The offense has sputtered at times, the bullpen has seen its hiccups (like blowing a large lead on Sunday in Boston), but deep down starting pitching has been the big issue.
This is why the Orioles' treatment of Kevin Gausman over the past few weeks has been puzzling. It even drew the ire of Jim Palmer during a recent broadcast. The Hall of Famer called the front office's handling of Gausman into question, wondering why he has been shuffled up and down between starts this season.
Palmer's words were very strong, and every one of them was accurate. If the O's want to see what they have with Gausman, they have to actually let him pitch on a regular basis. If he's a part of the future of this team, he is going to have to build up innings and learn how to pitch to major league hitters. There's no question Gausman has the best upside and stuff of anyone on the roster, but learning to actually use that will take experience, which can only be gained by pitching in the bigs.
Gausman is very unproven and only 23 years old, but it's sink or swim time for the right-hander. With the struggles the rest of the rotation has seen, what better time than now?
Gausman has shown the ability to pitch at the major league level. The Orioles have also made every other effort to keep other starters on turn, but failed to do so with one of their top young prospects. I'm fully confident the O's can continue to win and make strides toward the playoffs, even if their young pitcher shows some growing pains. It's especially evident that the Orioles will have no trouble keeping up in a weak AL East, so Gausman's full-time addition to the rotation could really only help matters.
Gausman has made just six starts this season, and in two of them, given up more than one run. Both times, he allowed five runs and in each start, he wasn't put on a regular rest.
There's another simple reason why putting Gausman in the rotation on a full-time basis is the right thing to do. Rumors began to spread weeks ago about the trade deadline, and now that July is upon us, contending teams are looking to get better before the end of the month. Gausman's name was brought up in a few different rumors, specifically involving Jeff Samardzija. While many know that the Cubs traded Samardzija to the A's this weekend, there could be other deals out there.
If the Orioles are planning to use Gausman as a trade chip, teams need to see what he can do at the big league level. There aren't many pieces the Orioles could use in a trade this month. Four pitchers are coveted by other teams, including one in Dylan Bundy who is coming off Tommy John surgery. If the front office desires, Gausman could be a chip to move in order to bring in other talent.
I'm not suggesting Gausman should be on his way out of town. Though, if the Orioles continue to treat him like a yo-yo, maybe it's for the better. I've seen the gripes from the fans. I've heard the greatest pitcher in the team's esteemed history voice his displeasure. The only question that remains is when and if the team will listen.
There's a great chance for the Orioles to win their division for the first time since 1997, and I have a big feeling that Gausman can be a big part of that, if they let him.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O's appear here as part of MASNsports.com's continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.