FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Orioles could make their next round of cuts on Thursday after conducting a noon meeting at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. Kevin Gausman will be discussed, along with many others in camp.
Gausman struck out three batters, including Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltlamacchia to begin the sixth, in two scoreless innings.
“He was good again,” said manager Buck Showalter. “You can see why everybody’s so high on him. He’s thrown well here. I’m impressed with the little things, his time to the plate from the stretch. When he does get centered up, he comes back out and continues to pound the zone. He won’t get fearful of the barrel of the bat like a lot of guys do who don’t have a lot of experience.
“This guy’s pitched in front of 7-10,000 people a night at LSU. This isn’t new, the pressure part of it. He’s handled himself well here. He’s able to slow them down some. He’s got stuff to slow them down and I think it’s a good experience for him. He’s finding out that people can turn a bullet around up here. It’s his location and his ability to slow them then, and he has the pitch to do it. I think that’s as exciting as the stuff he features. He’s got the ability to grasp secondary pitches at a young age.
“He’s pitched well and Thursday we’ll take a step back and decide whether it’s time for him to go or not.”
So, why did Showalter keep switching Nate McLouth and Trayvon Robinson every inning? It had nothing to do with center field or a lost bet.
“Chance for Nate and Trayvon to both get some time off the Fenway Park wall,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for two outfielders to get some work in Fenway Park. Two guys who might be playing left field at some point there. We’ve done it a couple times, but not the whole game.”
Showalter was impressed with Brian Matusz, who’s sporting a 2.60 ERA this spring.
“I liked the way he came back after the first inning,” Showalter said. “He threw the ball good. His first real challenging day heat-wise, I thought. Pretty sticky out there. Back home they call it ‘close.’ His stuff got better as the outing went on.
“Rick (Adair) was telling me he had 58 strikes and 17 balls. That’s good. Almost too good. He threw some really good change-ups later on.”
Asked where Matusz stands in the fifth starter competition, Showalter replied, “He’s still one of the competitors. Nobody’s really taken a step back. We’ve got a little less than two weeks. We’ll continue to take in the looks that we have and try to make a good decision. It’s a good difficult. We feel like we’ve got some quality to pick from. We’ll see what the season shows us.”
Matusz’s age and the money invested in him as a fourth-overall pick won’t factor into the decision.
“There are guys who go to the bullpen and come back and start,” Showalter said. “I’ve said before, we’re trying to present our best opportunity to win the first game of the season and the second game and third game and fourth game and keep all our bullets. It’s got a chance to be a strength for us, so we’re going to continue to...
“We’re fortunate we have a real optionable pitching staff. A lot of people are trying to make decisions right now whether a guy goes away or he makes your club. But I’m not going to use the fact that somebody has options against him.
“Jake (Arrieta’s) frustration last year, for instance, was because he couldn’t be there to help the team win. It wasn’t because of some individual sense of whatever. These guys sincerely want to contribute and I think it’s the same way with Brian. Would he like to start? Of course, but he wants to contribute, too. So we’ll see. When we have to make a decision on it, we will, but we don’t have to right now. We’re going to meet on Thursday at noon. We have a night game. And we’re going to see where we are with everything.”
Showalter added that if Matusz hadn’t been so good in relief last summer after returning from Triple-A Norfolk, “we probably wouldn’t be having this decision.”
“It bodes well for him as far as his ability to make this club in some form,” Showalter said. “It does have something to do with some of the thinking. I do not look at it as a bird in the hand that he’s going to be as successful in the bullpen as he was last year. He’s done nothing to make me think he wouldn’t be, but I think this is the time of the year when you get in a lot of trouble if you assume something just because it happened last year. I know no one in this camp has. They realize what had to happen last year to get where they got and not assuming.”
Showalter mentioned that Adair brought up how the Orioles could control Gausman’s innings by pitching him out of their bullpen at the beginning of the year, then sending him down later to be a starter. That idea didn’t get far and Adair was mostly thinking out loud, but you know it had to intrigue Showalter for a least a few seconds.
Daniel McCutchen got the save today, striking out two and stranding the tying run in the Orioles’ 8-7 victory. He continues to throw from a new arm slot, dropping down three-quarters.
“The McCutchen experiment is kind of interesting,” Showalter said. “That’s been two times. He’s been pretty good.”