As the Orioles continue their search for starting pitchers, casting a wide net that covers the free agent, trade and international markets and potential non-tenders, they also are banking on two strong halves from Kevin Gausman.
Tabbed as this year’s opening day starter due to Chris Tillman’s shoulder injury, Gausman registered a 5.85 ERA and 1.763 WHIP before the All-Star break and a 3.41 ERA and 1.204 WHIP after it. In 2016, he had a 4.15 ERA and 1.304 WHIP before the break and a 3.10 ERA and 1.258 WHIP after it.
While joining Jim Hunter and me last night for the “Orioles Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan - we drew a nice crowd to the Orioles Grille at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel - executive vice president Dan Duquette offered his thoughts on Gausman and suggested how the former first-round pick might be able to tap deeper into his vast potential.
“There’s nothing holding back Kevin Gausman from being one of the top pitchers in the league,” Duquette said. “He’s got an excellent fastball, he has good breaking stuff that’s a little more consistent. He could help himself as a fielder, I think. To turn himself into a winning pitcher, a pitcher who wins a lot more games than he loses.
“He’s got all the equipment and he’s done some good work for us. I’d really like to see him do it for a whole season. I know he has the talent to do that. He’s very dedicated to training and hopefully this is the year that he puts it all together.”
Duquette attended Monday night’s Ravens-Texans game at M&T Bank Stadium and said he was approached by some fans who recognized him and asked why he wasn’t busy trying to find pitchers. Everyone is on the same page when it comes to the importance of acquiring more arms.
“So that’s where we’re focused,” he said. “Any good team starts on the mound and any team that’s going to compete in the American League East has to have some pitching depth. So we’re focusing our efforts on adding to our pitching staff.
“I think we still have a good bullpen. Our bullpen is strong. We’ll have to add to our starting pitching, some veterans as well as some depth.”
* The Orioles signed former Indians pitcher Perci Garner to a minor league deal, as first reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and later confirmed by the right-hander and his agency, MSM Sports, on Twitter.
Garner, who turns 29 later this month, was a second-round pick of the Phillies in 2010 out of Ball State University. He appeared in eight games with the Indians in 2016 and allowed five earned runs (six total) and 12 hits in 9 1/3 innings with five walks, 12 strikeouts and two hit batters.
The Indians designated Garner for assignment on July 31. He was on Double-A Akron’s disabled list and appeared in only 13 games this summer due to wrist and leg injuries.
Garner was 7-1 with a 1.83 ERA in 41 games in 2016 with Akron and Triple-A Columbus.
* While roaming the #StayHungry Purple Tailgate Monday night, which raised more than $101,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore, I had the chance to get caught up with former head athletic trainer Richie Bancells.
Bancells just returned from Key West. He’s already enjoying his retirement while awaiting the arrival of an eighth grandchild.
It won’t be the same without him next spring, but I remain hopeful that assistant Brian Ebel will be promoted. Ebel is the logical successor. The Orioles shouldn’t overthink it.
Former Orioles outfielder L.J. Hoes also attended the tailgate. Hoes appeared in 67 games this summer with the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs and batted .312/.382/.402 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 30 RBIs.
Hoes was suspended for 50 games in February for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. The punishment begins after he signs with a major league team.
Skies In Chaos performed at the tailgate and the band never disappoints. Check them out Saturday at the Waterfront Hotel on Thames Street in Baltimore.
* After I passed along the names of 14 players who signed minor league deals with the Orioles, a follower on Twitter remarked how Ryan Ripken’s father was “mediocre at best,” and The Streak was “his only claim to fame.”
The tweet closed with the observation that Cal Ripken Jr. was “much overrated.”
I’ve heard other arguments that 2,131 is the only reason why Ripken made the Hall of Fame. If that’s the case, we must ignore his 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, American League Rookie of the Year award, two Most Valuable Player awards, eight Silver Slugger Awards, 19 All-Star Games and two Gold Glove Awards.
I’m curious what path Ryan Ripken will take following his playing career. He turns 25 in July and spent the 2017 season at short-season Single-A Aberdeen. No reason to give up on the dream, but he obviously has a long road ahead of him to gain prospect status.
Is he gaining experience to become a coach, with aspirations to manage?
* While reviewing the list of minor league free agent signings, I’m struck by how many utility infield candidates are staying in the organization.
I’m not sure whether to include Garabez Rosa, since the organization doesn’t seem particularly comfortable with his defense. But he’s also back after re-signing for a fourth time. He is quite happy with the Orioles and they appreciate his loyalty and certain intangibles that he brings to the table. I’m sure he’s going to be on the travel roster and “extras” list again for plenty of exhibition games.
Rubén Tejada, Luis Sardiñas and Erick Salcedo were re-signed to minor league deals as the Orioles decide how they’re going to replace Ryan Flaherty - assuming he doesn’t make his way back into the organization. We saw Tejada over the summer, and I’ve heard positive reports on Sardiñas and Salcedo. The latter really impresses with his defense.
Tweeting the 14 signings leads to the inevitable remarks about Dumpster diving and how it’s time to print the playoff tickets. Again, every team signs a bunch of players to minor league contracts. The Orioles did a nice job picking up some pitchers with major league experience and maintaining some infield depth, which was a concern last spring.
* We’re moving into December and I haven’t heard of any changes to the Orioles’ minor league coaching staffs beyond some possible changes in affiliates. Some guys could move up or down.
I could just be out of the loop and an outside hire will be announced at a later date, but so far I’m unaware of anyone being let go.
* I was fed a rumor on Tuesday, based in Chicago, that the Cubs traded infielder Javier Báez to the Orioles. No word on the return.
I’m thankful that I showed the proper restraint and didn’t blow up the phones of every single person in the Orioles organization.
I checked with one official who hadn’t heard about it. I kept checking Twitter. And I decided that it probably stemmed from a report earlier in the week that stated how the Orioles were expressing interest in Báez.
Unless everyone whiffed on it and the clubs forgot to announce it, there’s been no trade between the Orioles and Cubs involving Báez.
* Former Orioles outfielder Henry Urrutia is putting up some impressive numbers in the Venezuelan Winter League.
In 35 games with Cardenales de Lara, Urrutia is batting .388/.473/.570 with eight doubles, one triple, four home runs and 29 RBIs over 121 at-bats.
Urrutia, 30, wants another chance to play in the U.S. after batting .284/.360/.389 with 13 doubles, three home runs and 29 RBIs in 63 games in Double-A Portland. He’s a minor league free agent and will try to land a job at the Winter Meetings.
If unable to do so, he could accept an offer to play in Mexico or hold off a little longer while exploring other opportunities.
* I’ll close this entry with a tweet posted Tuesday night by former Orioles minor league outfielder Glynn Davis (@G_Willy_D23), who’s currently a free agent. In case you need another reason to root for him:
My wife & I adopted/sponsored a kid this Christmas and it is the best feeling. Giving back & making a kid have a great Christmas is awesome. #GivingTuesday-- Glynn Davis (@G_Willy_D23) November 29, 2017