BOWIE, Md. - It seems a little crazy to say this but, after just 28 professional innings, is Kevin Gausman ready for the major leagues?
He may be - or at least he may be close.
Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall is not one to rave about or overly hype players, but after seeing Gausman's strong six-inning outing last night against Akron, where he allowed just two hits and one run, Kendall sounded like a skipper that just might endorse Gausman for the majors right now if Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter seek his opinion.
"His velo was outstanding and he threw better sliders than he did up in Harrisburg (in his first start). He had more angle to them. He got in on some power hitters, really got the fastball in on them and tied them up. I was very impressed. He's just got some poise and he gave us six good innings tonight. We're just lucky to have him for the time that we have him," Kendall said in his office a few moments after Bowie sent the fans home happy with a 5-1 win to improve to 4-4.
We already knew that Gausman's fastball and changeup are what scouts like to call plus pitches, meaning better than major league average. Last night, Gausman's slider may have graded out as plus as well.
The 22-year-old right-hander got a challenge and handled it well in the top of the fourth. Two errors and his own wild pitch left runners on second and third with no outs. But with the middle of Akron's order up, Gausman went strikeout, strikeout against the Aeros' No. 3 and 4 hitters and got the third out on a groundout. Major threat, but no runs that time for Akron.
"Back was against the wall and he rises to the occasion," Kendall said of Gausman in the fourth. "He is just a quality right-hander that I think could be in Baltimore kind of soon. Nice to see those pitchers on their way.
"To me, when you grade out a guy, he pitches at 94 and will touch 97 and 98 and has offspeed pitches the way he does, I'd have to say he's one of the better ones (pitching prospects) I've ever seen and I've had some guys up there pitching in Baltimore. The ball comes out of his hand as good as anybody I've ever had."
Gausman was not perfect. He hit a batter when an 0-2 pitch got away from him, threw two wild pitches and gave up a leadoff double that came around to score in the fifth. But it was a strong outing and no one could deny that.
Kendall wasn't hyping a prospect he was just giving an honest assessment of a strong pitching performance.
By the way, Gausman now has 31 strikeouts to just one walk in those 28 pro innings which started with short-season Single-A Aberdeen last August and have taken him to major league spring training this year and now Bowie. He is 1-2 with a 3.54 ERA in those 28 innings.
For one night, the O's first-round pick from last June showed the home fans what he is all about. After a night like that, Baysox fans might even wonder how many more times they'll get to see this kid pitch in the Eastern League before a higher league comes calling.