SARASOTA, Fla. - Though Kevin Gausman said his right shoulder feels much better this morning, he can’t be certain that he’s going to be available by opening day on April 4.
Gausman received a cortisone injection on Sunday to combat the tendinitis, and he plans on playing catch Friday morning at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. However, his primary goal is to be ready by the first or second week of the regular season. The Orioles don’t need a fifth starter until the sixth game of the season on April 10.
“I feel a lot better,” he said. “I had the injection. Just kind of decided it was March 20, rather get in front of it then kind of have to go into the season worrying about it. I was getting treated for 10 or 12 days. It got significantly better. It didn’t get worse, but didn’t really get to the point where I felt it was really going away. Just kind of decided to have the injection and just get in front of it.
“I don’t know about opening day. One of my goals is to be ready by hopefully the first or second week of the season. One advantage we have is I might not pitch no matter what with all the days off that we have. It just kind of gives me a little bit more extra time to get ready, and I’d like to be ready by opening day, obviously, but better to not have to worry about it the whole season than try to rush back.”
This isn’t a significant blow to Gausman, but it’s a disappointment to someone who’s being counted on to take the next big step in his career and emerge as an ace for the Orioles.
“That’s the most frustrating thing,” Gausman said. “You do everything in the offseason, you do all your shoulder programs. This was the first offseason I had a personal trainer. Really came into camp feeling like I was in the best shape of my life. Ball was coming out really well, I was having good results.
“That’s one of the things, you just kind of have to take it day-by-day right now. Definitely frustrating, not something you ever want to do. But talking to the doctors, with our medical staff, they thought it would be a good idea to just kind of knock it out. It’s something I dealt with last season and even after I was on the DL, dealt with it also. It was something that I felt like getting something in there would help me.
“I’m hoping by the end of the week I’ll be playing light catch. I don’t know if they count the day you get an injection as a day, but it’s four days of not picking up a ball. And after that it’s kind of on how you feel. The unfortunate thing is I’ll probably have to be stretched back out, have multiple bullpens. Go back to throwing 25 pitches, kind of work up from there. That’s something that’s going to take more time than anything. Right now, I’m just hoping I can knock it out and coming back with no inflammation and no soreness.”
Gausman, who went on the disabled list last May with shoulder tendinitis, said he probably would have tried to pitch through it this year if it were the regular season. No sense doing it in exhibition games.
“Even last season, I dealt with it,” he said. “Coming back from the DL, I still had some issues with feeling fresh all the time. That was frustrating because throughout my whole career I never had shoulder problems and even in 2014 I felt great every time I took the mound. So last year was the first year that I realized those old guys aren’t lying when they say I’m a little banged up. It was one of those things, I took notes watching other guys’ bullpens and had to really take it easy some days.
“I think if it was during the season, I would probably just pitch through it and take a couple days off that I normally wouldn’t. But right now it’s only March 22, so I’d rather get rid of it right now than have to go into the season’s first start wondering how I’m going to feel.”
Getting the shot two days ago increases Gausman’s chances of avoiding the disabled list, though it’s not assured.
“I think it’s just some tightness, just a little bit of tendinitis,” said Gausman, who allowed three runs in four innings in his last start Wednesday versus the Pirates. “I really had the same thing in spring training last year and I think because I had never had any arm issues, I didn’t really know what it was, so I just thought it would go away. And I went into the season and I think pitching out of the bullpen, not knowing when you’re pitching, coming in and trying to throw as hard as I could, just kind of didn’t really help it, so that’s one of the reasons why I went on the DL.
“Now, knowing what it feels like and all that, I’m just happy that I said something, happy that it’s March 22 and I’m already two days into (the shot).”
Gausman is holding onto his goals of making at least 30 starts and working at least 200 innings. The latest bout of tendinitis hasn’t changed them.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “This probably gives me more of a chance to probably make every start. If I wouldn’t have and in my first start of the season I really felt like crap, it would have been hard to say, ‘All right, I’m going to be able to get through 30, 34 starts.’ But now that I’ve got some stuff in there to help me stay fresh and feel good, I feel very confident. And that’s the thing. If I’m healthy, I’m confident that I can make every start.”