What's the plan for Gausman?

Kevin Gausman warmed up in the bullpen last night as the game moved toward the later innings and the Orioles were trying to avoid another loss. He didn't pitch, making him available in long relief tonight or Wednesday.

Manager Buck Showalter prefers having a right-hander to back up lefties Zach Britton and Wei-Yin Chen, the next two starters to face the Rangers.

What happens to Gausman beyond this week remains something of a mystery, but he's expected to be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, which would keep him active instead of idle during the All-Star break.

The Orioles sent Chris Tillman to Double-A Bowie during the break last summer. He gave up three runs and four hits in 3 1/3 innings, which wasn't quite what they had in mind, but at least he pitched.

Gausman would have to squeeze into the Norfolk rotation, which will include knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa on Wednesday. Britton could be optioned following tonight's start to create room for Chen, since his turn wouldn't come up again before the break.

The Tides might have to go with a six- or seven-man rotation.

Gausman's future remains as a starter, but he's done a nice job out of the bullpen with seven scoreless innings in three appearances. He's allowed four hits, walked one and struck out six.

Two of those outings have come against the Yankees, and he picked up his first major league win with 4 1/3 scoreless innings on June 28.

In five starts, Gausman is 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, with 34 hits, six walks, 20 strikeouts and seven home runs.

Now that Pedro Strop is gone, the Orioles have more flexibility in their 'pen, making it possible to send down Gausman and replace him with another optionable pitcher. He could come back up and fill the same role, continue to start at Norfolk or slide back into the Orioles rotation - though making room is much trickier with Chen returning and Scott Feldman joining the group.

Nothing wrong with Triple-A depth. It's been lacking this year, especially with Steve Johnson's oblique injury, but having guys like Britton, Gausman, Freddy Garcia, Jair Jurrjens and Tsuyoshi Wada at the ready should be somewhat comforting to Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette.

Josh Stinson will need to fight to hold onto that 40-man roster spot. He's turned in three straight quality starts for Norfolk, allowing six earned runs in 21 innings.

Going back to last night, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters became the fourth duo in Orioles history to each strike out four times or more in the same game. It happened most recently with Davis (five) and Mark Reynolds (four) on Sept. 7, 2011 in New York.

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