The message for O's minor league batters and a take on Gausman

During a recent visit to Bowie's Prince George's Stadium to cover a Baysox game, I noticed some stat sheets taped to the home clubhouse wall. They were stats for Baysox players, but also a variety of team stats for each club in the O's organization.

They went beyond just some of the basic stats and the sheets were put there by Mike Boulanger, the Orioles second-year minor league hitting coordinator.

I asked Boulanger what this was all about.

"Part of it is peer pressure," he said. "Those are the numbers and we post them every two weeks. But if you look at some of the categories, much of that has nothing to do with batting average. The things that are listed by teams are on-base percentage, your ability to move a runner and score a runner from third. Your two-strike contact.

"The way I approach it with our guys is how many guys hit .300 in the big leagues? I think there were like 11 (actually 13 in the AL last year). To think you can go up and do that, I hope you do, hope they all are like Manny (Machado), but the majority will have to be good baseball players.

"Buck (Showalter), our skipper, wants guys who have competitive at-bats. If he needs a guy to get in that runner from third, it might not be a basehit, but the guy needs to cross home plate. Advance a runner late in the game. Can you get a sac bunt down? Those are all numbers that we keep and that's a winning player and team baseball."

The 63-year-old Boulanger is a veteran minor league manager and coach. He was in the Texas Rangers organization for nine seasons before joining the Orioles.

Not long after he was first hired, Boulanger told me about how he would track what he calls, "Productive Team Plate Appearances" in the O's minors.

On a recent Saturday at Bowie, the position players were out early for extra bunting work before batting practice.

"Buck doesn't want us to send him anybody that can't sacrifice bunt," Boulanger said. "You might be the three hole hitter in Bowie, but you might be the eight-hole hitter in the big leagues. He needs to know these kids can get the sac bunt down."

Offense in the minors this year:
*Triple-A Norfolk: 1st in International League at 246 runs, team avg. of .274 and 5.2 runs per game.

*Double-A Bowie: 1st in Eastern League with 246 runs, team avg. of .271 and 5.6 runs per game.

*Single-A Frederick: 3rd in Carolina League with 220 runs, team avg. of .242 and 4.9 runs per game.

*Single-A Delmarva: 9th in South Atlantic League with 200 runs, .256 team avg. and 4.4 runs per game.

Take on Gausman: Kevin Gausman took the loss in his major league debut but he showed the huge talent last night that he has shown in the O's minors. That is a pretty special combination of top velocity with a good changeup and slider. He showed his poise in limiting the damage in that fourth inning and a pitch up to J.P. Arencibia cost him in the fifth. Toronto is a hot-hitting team averaging 6.4 runs per game over its last 10 games.

I'm not making the decisions here but I would keep this kid in the rotation the rest of the year and let that special package of pitches finish its development at the big league level. What are your thoughts on it?

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