Give Showalter credit for sticking with Gausman

June 02, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

The big story for the Orioles at steamy Camden Yards on Sunday was Kevin Gausman, the mega-talented young righty who means so much to this franchise going forward

Give Gausman credit for a terrific outing (six innings, five hits, one earned run, no walks, four strikeouts) in the Orioles' 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers.

But give Buck Showalter a ton of credit, too, for sticking with the kid after he got lit up in his first two major league outings.

Remember what happened to Gausman against the Washington Nationals last week? The Nats made it look like he was throwing underhand. They crushed three homers off him for six of the seven earned runs he gave up in a dreary 9-3 Orioles loss.

After that disaster, which followed a shaky outing (four runs in five innings) in his major league debut against the Blue Jays in Toronto, the O's could have thrown up their hands and sent him back down to the minors to clear his head and work on his stuff.

Or they could have pushed his next start back to Tuesday, when he would have faced the light-hitting Houston Astros instead of the "big, hairy guys" — a favorite Buck expression — in the powerful Tigers lineup.

But Showalter didn't panic with the 22-year-old, who was the Orioles' top pick in the 2012 draft.

In fact, right after that debacle against the Nationals, Showalter announced — definitively — that Gausman would make his next start against the Tigers.

And Showalter would rather drive a nail through his skull than make a definitive announcement about a struggling pitcher's turn in the rotation, preferring to leave himself as much wiggle room as possible to make a change.

Asked Sunday why he was so certain about sticking with Gausman, the Orioles' manager didn't hesitate.

"Well, he's talented," Showalter said. "As much as you talk about a lot of other factors, he's talented. He's got a good hand, which allows him to do some things with the baseball.

"... Gaus was good. That's him. He's got a good arm and a talented hand. So far, so good. It was great to see him rebound. A pretty calm guy."

This was a huge outing for Gausman — there's no way to down-play it.

He needed to show the Orioles he could bounce back from those two bad outings in Toronto and Washington.

He needed to give the taxed O's bullpen a break with a quality start.

But most of all, he needed to show he could make the adjustments you have to make at the major league level after you get torched by the big, hairy guys most teams have in their lineups.

Gausman said he sat down with pitching coach Rick Adair and watched a ton of video, threw some side sessions and worked on his mechanics.

"Get on top more and have more of a downward plane," Gausman explained of tinkering with his delivery.

When he leaves the ball up in the strike zone, like most pitchers, he gets pounded. That's what happened in his first few starts at Double-A Bowie before the Orioles called him up.

And that's what happened against the Blue Jays and Nationals. Against the Tigers, he kept the ball low and dusted off a slightly different changeup, which helped frustrate big, hairy guys like Detroit's wonderous Miguel Cabrera, who grounded into two double plays and struck out against the rookie.

"I felt like today was probably the most polished and calm I've been out there since I've been up here," Gausman said.

If he keeps pitching like he did Sunday, Orioles fans will love watching this guy.

He'll be fun for the Orioles to watch, too. He's already a big hit in the O's clubhouse, where news of his quirks and superstitions have preceded him.

Gausman ditched his celebrated in-game donut-eating habit when he got called up to the big leagues, probably because it made the team nutritionists clutch their chests in alarm.

But he still hops over the foul line on his way to and from the mound. And his first warm-up pitch every inning is still a laser thrown from the back of the mound while he does a crow-hop over the pitching rubber.

"Do you still do that thing with the socks?" I asked him Sunday.

"Yep," he said, looking sheepish.

Here's how he described the socks thing to me last year after his first outing for the Single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds:

"I put on one sock and go get something to drink. Then I put on the other sock, take it off and go get something to drink. Then I put it back on. Then I put on the other one and go get something to drink."

If you're starting to get the impression that it takes Gausman about three hours to get dressed before a game, you're not far off.

"What do your teammates up here think about the socks thing?" I asked.

"They don't know about that yet," he said. "I'm hoping they don't notice."

Yeah, good luck with that plan.

But if he keeps pitching the way he did Sunday, the Orioles won't care if he takes three days to get dressed.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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