Almost from the day the Orioles drafted him last June, right-hander Kevin Gausman has been on a fast track to the major leagues.
Last Aug. 12, I was at Aberdeen's Ripken Stadium for Gausman's second pro outing for the Orioles. He was so impressive that day for the short-season Single-A IronBirds that the organization quickly changed its initial plan for him to only pitch at Aberdeen last summer and he would make his next start for Single-A Frederick and then ended the 2012 season pitching in a playoff game for Double-A Bowie.
That day I wrote about the club's plans changing on Gausman here.
Here is a quote from that sunny Sunday from the club's director of pitching development, Rick Peterson.
"That was really special," Peterson said then outside the Aberdeen clubhouse. "When you see a guy that can pound the bottom of the strike zone, and he was even up a bit today at times, but that along with a swing-and-miss changeup, that's a fast track. That's a real fast track. The guys with fastball-changeups, they can fly through systems.
"He's got great routines, he's got great makeup. Everything about him is A-plus. He's got an A-plus fastball and changeup. The changeup, especially, you'd much rather have a young pitcher come in with fastball-changeup than fastball-plus breaking ball."
Before the Winter Meetings last Nov. 29, Roch Kubatko and I sat in Dan Duquette's office and, when questioned about Dylan Bundy and Gausman that day, Duquette didn't back down a bit from the high expectations for the duo.
In fact, he said this about the pair while acknowledging even back then the distinct possibility that both could be with the Orioles in 2013:
"They have the talent," Duquette said. "They have serious talent. They have the talent and skills to be first division major league starting pitchers. Both of them. They are going to be good, both of them."
Read that story here.
After Gausman's second start this season on April 11 for Bowie, Baysox manager Gary Kendall, an experienced minor league skipper not prone to rave about a prospect, did just that as I speculated then that Gausman was already major league-ready.
Here is that story.
I think Gausman is ready to make his major league debut tomorrow night. He can touch the high 90s with his fastball and his changeup features not only good arm action but excellent late movement. It can be a swing-and-miss pitch and it might be his best pitch. That is saying something when you can throw in the high 90s. Gausman's slider is still a developing pitch, but it is becoming a real strong one for him.
At Bowie, I have seen this kid elevate his game when he has gotten into a jam. He gave up an average of just .158 with the Baysox when pitching with runners in scoring position and an average of just .125 with RISP and two outs.
Here is another factor: Gausman may be able to pitch as many as 175 innings this year. He threw 142 last year between LSU and the minor leagues. He is at 46 1/3 innings after eight Double-A starts.
Finally, I feel Gausman could handle it if and when he has struggles at the major league level. Let's hope not, but that could begin with his first big league start. Every young pitcher has some tough nights and goes through growing pains.
If the Orioles keep Gausman in their rotation, I expect him to do well, and it won't take too long for that. He is very mature and is confident in his ability, but also respectful of his teammates and opponents. This March, the Orioles put his locker right between Jim Johnson and Darren O'Day in the spring training big league clubhouse. That was a brilliant move, and that pair and others showed the kid the ropes. He couldn't have learned from a better duo.
At this point, there is no hiding for him or the Orioles from the high expectations. But I hope fans at least try to keep those in check a bit. Be excited for his debut, but don't put everything into this one start, good or not good.
It is fun to see a young kid with talent make his major league debut. Tomorrow night will be a fun one for all of Birdland.