Baysox set season-opening rotation, plus checking in with Kevin Gausman in Bowie

BOWIE - Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall has set his season-opening pitching rotation as the Baysox are working out today in the wind and cold at Prince George's Stadium before they open on Thursday at Harrisburg.

Mike Wright will start on Thursday and pitch the opener and be followed by Jake Pettit, Kevin Gausman, Eddie Gamboa and Julio Rodriguez.

"Mike Wright was here last year and threw a big game for us in the playoffs last year," Kendall said of his game one starter. "I know he was very impressive in spring training."

Dylan Bundy would have made it a six-man rotation, but he is not here yet as he has been shut down temporarily with mild tightness in his right elbow. Kendall said he has not been told when to expect Bundy to join his club.

Kendall said he is interested to see how Gamboa will do after adding a knuckleball and working with Hall of Famer Phil Niekro during spring training.

"What can be devastating about Eddie is his velocity was always average at 89 to 91 with a breaking ball he could always throw for a strike and his best pitch is his changeup," Kendall said. "Once he gets comfortable with that knuckleball, he could be kind of devastating. Some knucklers don't throw a fastball that firm. This thing could really escalate him and we're all pulling for him because we know what he puts into the game."

Meanwhile, Gausman will start Bowie's game Saturday at Harrisburg after a spring where he impressed in big league camp. He's about to begin a season knowing he may be close to reaching the big leagues.

"Hey, Baltimore is only what, a half-hour away, so I'm close in that aspect also," Gausman said. "But I feel good and I'm healthy. The ball is coming out of my hand easy right now and it just kind of feels good. My mechanics feel good and that is what you ask for early in the year."

He said he tried to soak up the experience of spending most of the spring with the Orioles and spending time in the big league clubhouse.

"Miguel (Gonzalez), he was awesome. My locker was right next to Darren O'Day, he's a character. All those guys are pretty fun to be around," Gausman said. "They were great to show me the ropes in my first spring training. I would pick their brains and just tried to act like a fly on the wall."

In his one outing for Bowie last September, he pitched three shutout innings with five strikeouts in a playoff game against Akron. So after his impressive spring, what did Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair tell him when he was finally sent to Bowie?

"They told me they thought I had a good spring and they're excited for me going forward," Gausman said. "Some things they told me I need work is just making that slider great all the time. It has flashes of being great, but I have to be more consistent with that. Buck told me he wanted me to get in a routine and get used to pro ball more than anything."

Last season, Lew Ford hit .331 in 62 games at Triple-A Norfolk, then was called to Baltimore and he made the Orioles playoff roster. But now, at 36, he will begin this season with the Baysox.

"Lew Ford is just a professional," Kendall said of Ford's Double-A assignment. "He comes to play regardless of level. He doesn't change from Double-A to when he plays the outfield in Baltimore. He's going to be a great leader and lead by example."

Kendall said he needs to check in with Orioles director of player development Brian Graham before setting his opening night lineup. The Baysox begin the year with a seven-game road trip to Harrisburg and Richmond. If they stay on turn with that rotation, it lines up with Gausman set up to pitch the home opener here a week from Thursday night.

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