The Orioles would need to make an abrupt turn in order to remove Kevin Gausman from their 2016 rotation plans. The type of turn where brakes are slammed, the wheel is cut, the vehicle ends up on two tires, coins fly out of the change compartment and you have lots of explaining to do in traffic court.
Or so I’ve been told.
Cover your ears and shield your eyes from any trade rumors that include Gausman, and that’s sound advice in any year. The Orioles haven’t put him on the table in the past despite rival executives always inquiring about him. They don’t intend to do it this winter.
They need at least one starter with left-hander Wei-Yin Chen expected to leave via free agency. They don’t need to punch another hole in the rotation or deal a pitcher who’s under team control through 2020 and comes with a ceiling so high that Michelangelo wishes he could have painted it.
As I wrote yesterday, the Orioles also seem inclined to keep left-hander Zach Britton as their closer rather than trade him. From what I’ve been told, they don’t envision a scenario where Gausman becomes the ninth-inning specialist. It should have been obvious all along, but you know how rumors work.
Manager Buck Showalter has envisioned Gausman breaking camp in the rotation next spring long before the final out was made in the 2015 season. It’s always been the assumption, the intention, the logical next step in his career.
No more bullpen, no more shuttling back and forth between the majors and Triple-A Norfolk unless he’s really laboring. More than Philip Rivers’ wife (look it up).
“I’ve kind of felt like that before, but obviously last year we had six guys for five spots and I was kind of the odd man out,” said Gausman, who made 17 starts among his 25 appearances in 2015.
“This season, obviously I’m excited about that. I went into spring training last season and I really killed myself in the offseason to be ready to throw close to 180-185 innings and I started the year in the bullpen and that kind of pushed me back. And then I went on the DL, so it was kind of a frustrating year for me, but I’m obviously very excited, ready to get going.
“I actually found out that I have another option. That’s something that I wasn’t aware of. We’ll see what happens and how that all pans out. But it’s something I can’t control. I’ve dealt with it before, so I’m used to it.”
Gausman, Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez are locks for the opening day rotation. Miguel Gonzalez brings a little more uncertainty, but he’s still a favorite to start. Executive vice president Dan Duquette continues his search for another arm for the first, second or third slot.
No matter who’s on the mound, Matt Wieters will be behind the plate on most nights after accepting the $15.8 million qualifying offer.
“I was really surprised,” Gausman said. “I think he really loves Baltimore and from the interviews I’ve heard him do, that’s one thing he stressed, that he’s familiar with the clubhouse and everybody. Everybody here loves having him, we all love throwing to him and he’s a great guy. He’s a great Christian, he’s a great clubhouse guy. He’s somebody you can build a franchise around.
“He’s going to be starting opening day. There’s no wondering how he’s going to be and that sort of thing. You know what you’re going to get.”