ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Manager Buck Showalter expects to announce Wednesday’s starter after tonight’s game against the Rays, and all signs point to Chris Tillman because of the importance attached to the regular season finale.
That is, if it’s the last regular season game. The Orioles could finish tied with the Yankees for first place in the American League East and meet Thursday in Baltimore.
Showalter’s head must be spinning. He had no idea that the forecast in New York tonight suggested that the Yankees-Red Sox game could be rained out, which would force a doubleheader Wednesday. It’s more challenging for Showalter to announce his starter for Wednesday if the Yankees still have two more games to play.
Showalter took the time to stop by the visiting bullpen at Tropicana Field, where he watched a small portion of Kevin Gausman’s side session. Gausman has been pitching in the instructional league in Sarasota and will make two more starts there before shutting down for a while and catching up on his rest.
“I just came up here because they’re so close right now and it’s an exciting time of the year right now for Baltimore Orioles fans, so I think it was more that none of them have seen me pitch and it was my day to throw a bullpen. It just kind of made sense,” said Gausman, the Orioles’ first pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of LSU.
Asked how much he’s progressed since being drafted, Gausman said, “A lot. Really just the little things. Being more consistent with my slider and my breaking pitches. Really every aspect of the game, learning the things in pro ball that are a lot different from college baseball. The speed of the game picks up every level that you go up.
“How smart the hitters are. That’s one thing I noticed right away. When you’re in college, you’ve got those metal bats and you can just stick it out there. Now when you throw to wood, you can kind of tell who the best hitters are. You can tell they change their approach every at-bat. I think that’s the biggest thing, learning the hitters and how smart they are and which ones you can throw certain pitches to and just kind of learning the game.”
Gausman wore an Orioles batting practice uniform for his bullpen session and used a locker set up for Tsuyoshi Wada, who’s been rehabbing his left elbow in Sarasota.
“It’s awesome,” Gausman said. “It’s fun to meet some of the guys. My first year with the team and being with the Orioles for a couple months now, I haven’t met most of these guys, so it’s kind of cool to see guys I watch on TV. Now I shake their hand or talk to them about the game.
“I saw (Dylan) Bundy and met him in Bowie, so it was kind of cool to talk to him about what the show is like. It’s just kind of cool to come out here and get goosebumps just from being here.”
Gausman joined the organization at an opportune time, with the Orioles making the playoffs for the first time since 1997. LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn, the former Orioles’ bullpen coach, pointed it out the night that Gausman was drafted.
“It couldn’t have happened a better way,” Gausman said. “That’s what Alan Dunn said to me. He said, ‘This is the perfect time for you to get in Baltimore and kind of help that team out hopefully in the future.’ It’s an exciting time and I’m excited for the future. For many years to come, this is what it’s going to be looking forward to, October in Baltimore. It’s going to be fun.
“I’ve been anxious since Day One. When I got drafted, the plan in the back of my head was, ‘All right, hopefully they make the playoffs and maybe I can help out,’ kind of wishful thinking and dreaming. But it’s cool to be here and meet the guys and be in the same room as them and see them joke around. This team is fun to watch. All the things are coming together right now and hopefully we can win these last couple and have fun in October.”
Could Gausman pitch for the Orioles next season?
“In my mind, I’d like to think so,” he said. “That’s one of my goals, to be here next year and be able to contribute as much as I possibly can. That’s one of my goals, but it’s not up to me, so I’m just going to go out there and compete and try to win ballgames and let the cards fall where they may.”