SARASOTA, Fla. - Kevin Gausman’s spring training has gotten considerably better since his first game on Feb. 26. That day he collided with the Tigers’ Jeimer Candelario backing up at home plate. It left him with a cut above his left eyelid and some soreness in his back.
But since then he pitched three hitless and scoreless innings with five strikeouts March 3 versus the Phillies. He threw four innings and 65 pitches March 9 in a simulated game.
Last night he was a spectator and enjoyed watching new teammate Andrew Cashner make his first Grapefruit League start as he has pitched four scoreless against Philadelphia.
Gausman said Cashner has quickly proven to be a good teammate beyond what he can bring the Orioles on the mound.
“It seems like he works pretty hard and goes about his business the right way,” Gausman said this morning in the Orioles clubhouse. “He’s a good teammate. We’re excited to have him. He looked really good last night.
“In a matter of a couple of days he was giving guys his phone number and doing some stuff with guys away from the field. I guess that is kind of what is expected with a veteran guy who has been around a lot of clubhouses. He gets it.”
“I can’t speak for Bundy, but me and him both lean on Tilly at times and really respect his opinion when it comes to watching our bullpens and talking to us about mechanics and things like that. We’re excited to have him back. He’s a guy that had success pitching in the AL East for a long time. It is always good to pick his brain.”
Gausman has heard plenty of criticism of the Orioles rotation. Much was deserved after the 5.70 ERA last year that ranked easily as last in the American League.
“I can speak for myself only. I had a terrible year last year. 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. Overall our starting pitching last year was too inconsistent.”
Gausman notes this is not the first time the O’s rotation has been lightly regarded.
“Ever since I’ve been here, they’ve been saying that every year. In 2014, our second half, we were the best in baseball. I get it. They like picking the bigger teams. It’s pretty easy to pick New York. Boston, their rotation probably has gotten more accolades than ours. But I feel like Cashner and Tilly were the perfect pickups for us. Cashner’s sinker is going to play in any ballpark in any league. You have to be able to do that in the American League East. There are not many fly ball pitchers successful in the AL East.”
The rookie is trying to fit in: O’s outfield prospect DJ Stewart got a few at-bats the last two years at spring training, but this season he’s been in the O’s clubhouse since camp began, as a non-roster invitee.
He knows he’s not making this team come April but he’s trying to plant a seed that he can help in the future. And at the same time get to know the major league players and acclimate himself in the big league clubhouse.
“It’s been cool,” the 24-year-old Stewart said of his time in big league camp. “Just learning from the guys. Just how they go about the game. Every rep they are trying to get better at something. Just perfecting their craft. How they go about their routine every day you learn how to be a pro.”
Stewart went 1-for-4 yesterday and is batting .211 (4-for-19) in spring games with one RBI.
“Yesterday, facing a big league pitcher in (Boston right-hander) Rick Porcello. You can see he is working you in-out, in-out. Not throwing super hard but he knows how to pitch and has been in the big leagues for a long time. Seeing guys that have been in the big leagues, you can always learn something. Even if you are just watching.
“The guys in the Eastern League, they are definitely good pitchers. But the guys in this league are great pitchers. Guys in the Eastern League will get to the majors, but they are not established big leaguers now. You can always gain something from facing big league pitchers,” he said.
Update: As it turns out, I interviewed Stewart this morning on his last official day in big league camp. The Orioles today optioned pitcher Alec Asher to Triple-A Norfolk and reassigned infielder Ryan Mountcastle and Stewart to minor league camp. Now Stewart and Mountcastle can begin to get every day at-bats in minors camp as the minor league spring games begin on Wednesday.