Gausman: “I was freaking out because I thought that I was having a heart attack”

If pitcher Kevin Gausman wants to curse the timing of what may be an intercostal muscle injury, he could vent in a couple of directions.

The Orioles would have recalled a healthy Gausman for tonight’s series opener in Minnesota. And after being on a strict pitch count for his first five starts with Triple-A Norfolk, he was cleared to throw up to 90 for the Tides tonight until being scratched and replaced by knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa.

“So ... of course,” Gausman said today in a phone interview.

After having X-rays taken yesterday, Gausman will undergo an MRI later today to determine the nature and extent of the injury.

“I’m just hoping maybe I’ll miss two starts and can kind of get back out there and won’t have to start throwing again and go back to a throwing program,” he said. “I can just kind of hit the ground running. That’s what I’m hoping for. I guess we’ll see.”

Gausman attended a hockey game with teammates Wednesday night and woke up around 4 a.m. the next morning unable to catch his breath. He naturally feared the worst.

“It was weird,” he said. “I had been sick about 2 1/2 weeks ago and really got over it. I had been fine, but I had been coughing the last couple of days. Nothing very serious. And then I woke up, just about four in the morning yesterday, and I couldn’t breathe. I was freaking out because I thought that I was having a heart attack. I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t fall back asleep.

“Later in the morning, I told our trainer here, Mark (Shires) and he sent me over to see the doctor. We had X-rays done. I’m not really sure what they say, but I’m headed to get an MRI today.”

One theory is that Gausman aggravated his intercostal muscle or ribcage because of the excessive coughing.

“That’s what they think,” he said. “I’m hoping it’s nothing else. I guess we’ll just kind of wait and see what the MRI says.

“It’s something that’s pretty terrible to say, but the first time that I’ve been hurt in pro ball, I was asleep. Just my luck, you know?”

Left-hander Brian Matusz went on the disabled list on April 1, 2011 with a strained intercostal - the first time I heard of such an injury - and the Orioles called up Zach Britton to make his start at Tropicana Field. Matusz was sidelined for two months.

“I actually got a text from Matusz saying, ‘Hey, if you need someone to talk to, I went through the same thing.’ I’m sure that I’ll talk to Brian about that,” Gausman said.

“It’s such a weird thing. I’ve been completely healthy this entire season and been feeling great on the mound, and I got a little sick, but I kind of battled through it. It kind of sucks that something like this can happen.

“I even went to bed early that night. It just goes to show, if something is going to happen, it’s going to happen, I guess.”

What’s happening now is Gausman is headed to a doctor’s office instead of Minnesota.

“Honestly, I didn’t think about that until after I had some time to sit down and think about the fact that I might be on the DL for a little bit,” he said. “Then I saw all the moves they’re making, sending (Josh) Stinson and (Evan) Meek down here. And then I talked to (director of player development) Brian Graham today. I didn’t really think about it at all before that, though.”

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