Self critic: Gausman not happy when he looks back on 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. - Right-hander Kevin Gausman knows the Orioles are counting on him. They are counting on him today, tomorrow and hopefully for many years to come as a key member of their pitching rotation.

He is a homegrown Oriole - drafted No. 4 overall in 2012 out of LSU - and he’s made 106 career starts in the orange and black. But when you ask Gausman about the rotation’s poor performance last year, he directs the criticism at himself, throwing himself under the bus after a season where he went 11-12 with a 4.68 ERA.

It was a year where Gausman had an ERA of 5.85 before the All-Star break and 3.41 after. While he went 6-5 with a 2.70 ERA over his last 14 starts of the season (the seventh-best ERA in the majors in that span), his numbers overall still tick him off.

gausman-watching-bullpen-spring.jpg“I had a terrible year last year,” Gausman said Monday morning. “I got off to a really slow start and got into a groove way too late. That was the difference between us winning a handful of games.

“I went from starting opening day to, you know at the break, to be honest, was a little lost. Had to fight my way through the whole year to find out what it was. Whether it was mechanically or mentally. I figured it out, but it took me a little while.

“When I watch a veteran starting pitcher - a guy I want to be one day - it only takes one pitch or one inning to figure it out. They can make changes and adjustments quickly. For me, it took way too long. That is why I say that.”

Gausman tied for the major league lead with 34 starts last year and pitched to an ERA of 3.24 versus American League East foes. Yet other numbers don’t sit well with him, like the 1.495 WHIP and .283 batting average against. And his ERA rose over a run from 2016, going from 3.61 to 4.68.

But he did get it together in the second half. He tweaked his delivery to get himself more on a line to home plate, which proved to be quite beneficial.

“I would say it (his early struggles last year) was mostly mechanical,” Gausman said. “I was throwing across my body more than I ever had. It was making the ability to throw my bread-and-butter pitch - a fastball down and away - really hard to do consistently. A lot of pitches were coming back toward the middle of the plate. I was getting 0-2 and 1-2 counts a lot, but wasn’t able to make that last quality pitch.

“In the second half last year, I just was better at trusting my stuff. Baseball is tough. Some days are rough going home. At that point last year, you know, I wasn’t having the year I expected out of myself.”

Gausman will give himself some credit for turning around his season and taking an ERA that reached 7.55 in early May and reducing it to a more respectable final number.

“It could have gone one of two ways,” he said. “I could really fight back and try to gain something of the season or have an excuse to fall back on. I think I went the right way, which is good. So yeah, I’m excited to start this year and start off the right way.”

More on Gausman:

* Opponents hit .492 off him last year on an 0-0 count.

* While he had an ERA of 9.27 in 2017 versus the Yankees, he went 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA against the Red Sox. He was 2-1 with an ERA of 0.45 versus Tampa Bay and 3-0 with a 1.51 ERA against Toronto.

* In nine starts last year when Gausman struck out eight or more, he was 5-2 with a 1.19 ERA.

* According to BrooksBaseball.net, Gausman averaged 95.4 mph last season on his four-seam fastball. He averaged 87.5 mph on his changeup, 85.5 mph on his split-finger fastball and 83.1 mph on his slider.

Kids can get in for free: Did you see the announcement yesterday of the “Kids Cheer Free” program this year at Camden Yards? The program invites parents to bring children 9 and under free of charge to Oriole Park.

Under this new program, every adult who purchases a regularly priced individual game ticket in the upper deck will be invited to bring two children 9 and under to the ballpark, compliments of the Orioles. The O’s announcement drew some praise throughout the game yesterday. Check out more on that here.

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