SARASOTA, Fla. - Kevin Gausman pitched today like an opening day starter.
The Tigers didn’t bring their A lineup, but Gausman still earned a passing grade by tossing five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. He allowed two hits and walked one batter.
Gausman struck out five of the first nine batters he faced and threw first-pitch strikes to nine of 11 and 12 of 15. He walked James McCann with two outs in the first and Andrew Romine singled with two outs in the third on a fly ball that fell in right-center field. Mikie Mahtook singled with two outs in the fourth, but Dominic Ficociello became Gausman’s seventh strikeout victim.
Manager Buck Showalter sent Gausman back out for the fifth and the former LSU standout became the first Orioles pitcher to complete it, retiring the side in order on 11 pitches and collecting his eighth strikeout. Left-hander Richard Bleier replaced him to start the sixth.
I have Gausman with 78 pitches, including 49 strikes. His fastball was 93-94 mph when I bothered to check the stadium gun.
Gausman has allowed two earned runs (three total) and six hits in 13 spring innings. He’s walked three batters and struck out 14. And he’s made it quite clear that he should start the April 3 opener with Chris Tillman headed to the disabled list.
Back-to-back doubles by Chris Davis and Trey Mancini in the second inning gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead against Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd. Davis was 3-for-21 before the hit. Mancini improved to 14-for-41 with five doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs.
Davis also singled in the fourth, so make him 5-for-23 this spring.
For everyone asking, Mancini has a shot to break camp with the team because the Orioles are expected to carry 11 pitchers and an extra bench player for the first few weeks. But a four-man bench could push Mancini back down to Triple-A Norfolk.
It still seems more likely that Joey Rickard and Craig Gentry are carried as extra outfielders to platoon with Hyun Soo Kim and Seth Smith. Mancini isn’t a backup catcher or super utility player. He deserves to stick in the majors, but how is it possible without an injury?
Rickard singled with one out in the third inning and improved to 12-for-34 (.353) with a double, three home runs, seven RBIs and four stolen bases. He can be the leadoff hitter against left-handers, as he’s doing today.
Mancini caught fly balls in the first and second innings as the right field experiment continued. Maybe he would work into an experiment platoon with Pedro Álvarez, who caught a fly ball yesterday in Tampa.
Update: Bleier allowed two runs in the sixth and Zach Stewart served up a two-run homer to Matt Murton in the seventh to give Detroit a 4-1 lead.
Stewart gave up three runs and three hits in 1 1/3 innings in his last outing against the Pirates. He also let two inherited runners score.
Update II: Stewart allowed another run in the eighth on Michael Almanzar’s RBI single, the ball scooting past Garabez Rosa at third base. Tigers 5, Orioles 1
Update III: John Hicks hit a two-run homer off Jesus Liranzo in the ninth to increase the Tigers’ lead to 7-1.