In desperate need of a break from all the non-waiver trade deadline chatter, speculation and conflicting reports, I set up a phone interview with pitcher Kevin Gausman, who is scheduled to make his next start Friday for Triple-A Norfolk.
Gausman has made two starts for the Tides since being optioned, allowing six runs and 11 hits in 7 2/3 innings. He had been working in relief for the Orioles, so the first order of business upon his return to Norfolk was getting him stretched out.
For Gausman, it also was about finding his comfort zone again as a member of a rotation.
“I think the big thing was to try to get back to my routine as a starter,” he said. “I hadn’t thrown in a while as a starter. I didn’t know how to go about getting back in my routine, especially how my arm was feeling. I hadn’t thrown more than 60 pitches since I got my first win against the Yankees (on June 28). This was something a little different for me.
“I got back to 70 pitches right away and I definitely felt it the next day. But I feel good about it. I like where I’m at. Triple-A is kind of a big proving ground, and something I’ve started to learn is a lot of guys at this level are just as good as big league guys. They’re just waiting for their turn. So I’m still learning how to pitch, how to go about using my slider and things like that.
“I’ve been kind of rusty, to be honest. I’m trying to get back in my routine as a starter. Physically, I feel good now, and the ball’s coming out good. I have good velocity and my changeup has been good. And my slider’s actually been pretty good lately.
“I’ve given up a lot of two-strike hits. That’s something I’ve struggled with a little as a starter, something I need to be a little better at. From my time in the bullpen up there, it’s something I’m trying to get back to, attacking hitters and going at them, just as I did as a reliever.”
Reports from Norfolk manager Ron Johnson include mention of the ground balls that seem to find holes, and one particular start where Gausman could have gotten about six more strikeouts if the plate umpire had cooperated.
“That’s the thing,” Gausman said. “People look at the numbers, and if they’re not at the game, they don’t really get a feel for what happened. I’ve had a lot of situations my last two starts where I’ve had guys on first and third, and I get a ground ball that happens to be a foot away from our infielder, or where they hit it and it just wasn’t hit at someone. I got the ground ball, which I’m trying to get. That’s something I’ve got to accept. I made my pitch and got the ground ball. It just happened to not be at someone. That’s something about the box score that nobody understands. They look at how many hits I gave up, how many runs I gave up.”
Gausman is stretched out enough now where he feels as though he can throw 90-plus pitches.
“To be honest, I think the six-man rotation here gives me an extra day to get used to it,” he said. “It’s something that’s been good for me. But I wish they would let me go over 100-110 pitches. That’s something where, in the future, they want you to be a starter who racks up a lot of innings and goes deep in games. I’d love to be able to throw 100 pitches, but I completely understand their thought process and things like that. They want to monitor my pitches and innings. A lot of things are out of my control.”
Like being optioned again and having to readjust to life in the minors.
Was it tough going back?
“Yeah, definitely,” Gausman said. “I had been pitching well out of the bullpen, but it was just like my first time being sent down. They needed another arm, and if you have options, you’re the guy, especially because all those guys up there, none of them have options. If they make a move, it’s going to be me or (Zach) Britton. So I wasn’t surprised by it.
“When I came up the second time, I knew it was going to be short-lived. I just wanted to make the most of it and prove that I could get outs up there. I think it’s something I definitely proved, and it was good for me to be coming out of the bullpen because come September, that’s where I might be.”
Exactly. There’s no room in the rotation at the moment, and the Orioles continue to scout available starters as the non-waiver deadline approaches. Gausman may have to wait until rosters expand in September, and he may have to take another seat in the bullpen.
“Whatever they want me to do, I’ll go up there and try to the best of my ability,” he said. “I would think if anything, they would want me as a reliever at this point or later in the year, but who knows? They might want to mix in a starter that teams haven’t seen. You know Buck. He can surprise you.”
The trade rumors could have a direct impact on Gausman - not because he may change teams, but because adding another arm could lessen his chances of being recalled sooner.
“I read stuff and I try to think about who they might go and get, but other than that, I really try not to,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s out of my control. No matter what happens, they may still need help and may still need me out of the bullpen or to start. It’s something that I obviously monitor because that’s the team I’m on and I obviously want to know what they’re doing.
“It depends on a lot of things, I guess. We’ll see what happens. There’s, what, two more days? I don’t know how many pitchers are available. I heard (Jake) Peavy and (Cliff) Lee. That’s really all I know about.
“I think you pay attention to it, but at the same time, you try not to think about it.”
Note: The Orioles activated pitcher Joel Pineiro from the disabled list and released him from his contract at Triple-A Norfolk.
Pineiro didn’t pitch this season. The Orioles re-signed him over the winter so they could monitor his rehab. He never figured into their plans for 2013.
Also, catcher Steve Clevenger has reported to short-season Single-A Aberdeen to continue his rehab assignment. Clevenger, obtained from the Cubs with pitcher Scott Feldman, is recovering from a strained oblique. He was playing in the Gulf Coast League.