SARASOTA, Fla. - Kevin Gausman’s second exhibition start this spring won’t mirror the first. Not in planned duration and certainly not in opponent.
Gausman takes the mound Tuesday afternoon against the Dominican Republic team that’s preparing for the World Baseball Classic. This isn’t the Twins, his first opponent, or a bunch of reserves and minor leaguers that piled into a bus.
“Anytime you face a lineup like that, it’s pretty much an All-Star stacked lineup,” Gausman said. “Definitely not slowly getting into it, you know? Second start, I get the Dominican Republic.”
It’s an assignment that he’s happy to accept. Bring on Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Hanley Ramirez, Jose Bautista and Carlos Santana, Welington Castillo and Jose Reyes, Starling Marté and Gregory Polanco.
“Yeah, it’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’m sure Manny will be in the lineup. It will be kind of my first time facing him in an actual game, so it will be cool. It will be fun.”
This actually will be the second time this spring that Machado has dug in against Gausman. They faced each other in the second intrasquad game. Machado grounded into a force and reached on Johnny Giavotella’s throwing error.
If not for that matchup, Gausman said, “it would probably be a lot weirder.”
“Usually the second time you face a guy, you kind of turn the page and forget about it,” he said. “But obviously he’s a really good player, so you definitely have to be careful. Kind of bragging rights around here, too. If he happens to get me or something like that, I’m sure I’ll never hear the end of it. Try not to let that happen.”
Gausman can’t let the upgraded competition distract from the primary purpose of his start. Get stretched out to three innings and stay healthy.
“It’s definitely still about working on things and just getting familiar with being on the mound and being in games. And the most important thing is your health right now, so try not to overdo it,” he said.
“It will definitely get your competitiveness coming out a little bit. I think that will be good.”
Manager Buck Showalter is putting a positive spin on losing his players to the WBC, a group that also includes second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who left on Feb. 28 for Team Netherlands. The Orioles can more easily evaluate other players in camp who are trying to win jobs or secure a place on the Triple-A roster.
“It helps us even more with the looks we’re going to get,” Showalter said. “Manny’s going to be on our club, Castillo’s going to be on our club, Jon’s going to be. They’re going to make our club. I look at it as a chance to help us make better decisions about the Rule 5 guys, about some of the guys who are competing for positions.
“Chris Johnson is leading our club in at-bats and he’s got four or five people right on his heels and that’s only going to get more and more. I feel real good about what we told these guys would happen. I’m not sure if they believed me then, but they believe me now.”
Showalter often references the chance provided by the Orioles to “out-opportunity” other clubs, which leads players willing to take minor league deals to come calling.
“We’re not going to be at 70 (camp players),” he said. “We’re going to have these guys leave and they’re going to play.
“Talking to R.J. (Ron Johnson), I don’t think Chris knew he was going to play this much. He’s like, ‘OK.’ He made the mistake of telling me his mom lives over in Fort Myers and he needs to make that trip. Perfect, perfect.”