ORIOLES PHENOM GAUSMAN KNOCKING ON MLB DOOR
Added by Matt Kardos on May 18, 2013.
Exactly one year ago to the day, Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect and Bowie Baysox ace, Kevin Gausman was gearing up for the SEC tournament as the anchor of the rotation for an LSU baseball program that has established expectations of excellence and anything less than booking a trip to Omaha for the College World Series is deemed a failure. Gausman went out last May 18 against the number one team in the nation, the University of South Carolina in a match-up of two of the NCAA’s premiere baseball institutions. The flame-throwing righty, who is no stranger to hitting triple digits on the radar gun, out-dueled the Gamecocks ace, Michael Roth, that afternoon and delivered one of the bookmark starts of his young career; a complete game victory to propel his Tigers and ultimately his standing as the most attractive arm in the MLB Draft.
Kevin Gausman was stellar in his start in Trenton on Friday. Photo by: Matt Kardos
One year later, the 22-year old Gausman is a few dollars richer, $4.2 million to be exact. That was the hefty signing bonus awarded to Gausman after being selected fourth overall by the Orioles last June. In just his first season of professional baseball, Gausman has already generated hype throughout baseball that has already pr0ompted a countdown to his call-up to the big leagues after just eight Double-A starts.
“When you play at LSU, I think that the tradition that they have, they expect greatness and they expect to go to the College World Series every year,” said Gausman. “Playing in front of 9,000 fans a game is something in my freshman year that I wasn’t used to. It’s been awesome here so far and I think that my time there has really prepared me for Double-A.”
Gausman admits that the rigors of minor league life and the spaced out scheduled between starts and appearances has been the aspect of pro-ball that has been the biggest adjustment hat he has had to make thus far.
“Probably just getting used to a five day rotation has been the biggest thing,” said Gausman. “Coming from college, you dont really think of it as that big of a jump, but it is. You feel like you pitch every other day; I feel like my last start was yesterday, so it’s something that is defintiley a little different. It was hard to get used to at first but as of right now I feel really good about it and I’m starting to get used to it and it’s been pretty easy for me to do so far.”
After dueling with New York Mets highly touted prospect, Rafael Montero last Tuesday, Trenton Thunder ace Jose Ramirez toed the rubber against Gausman on Friday night at Arm & Hammer Park in what very well may go down as the best pitching match-up in the Eastern League in 2013. Ramirez, regarded as arguably the best arm in the Yankees farm system, has also garnered league wide attention with his impressive fastball that sits at 94 mph. along with a slider and change-up that have been a nightmare for opposing offenses to put a bat on. Ramirez has surrendered just three earned runs entering his start on Friday.
With so much hype surrounding this star-studded battle on the mound, Gausman might have been the only one in the ballpark Friday night who wasn’t aware of the attention being drawn to the match-up.
Thunder pitcher Jose Ramirez has been matched up with 2 of baseballs premiere pitching prospects in back to back weeks.
“Going into the game, I didnt know anything about him,” admitted Gausman. “This is my first year in pro-ball; all of these guys that I face, they tell me that I’m facing somebody like this and that. I didn’t really know anything about him but he’s got velocity there. He was throwing a lot of strikes and getting a lot of strikeouts. I know the guys were talking about his change-up and slider, so that’s always good when you have three pitches that you can mix in there for strikes.”
Many times pitching duels of this magnitude fail to live up to the hype surrounding them, but Gausman-Ramirez was worth every penny that the 5,690 fans in attendance paid to see it. Trenton struck first blood when Slade Heathcott cranked a triple to the left center field gap and scored one play later on an RBI ground out back to Gausman in the second inning.
Ramirez surrendered a solo blast to Caleb Joseph, brother of Yankees infielder and former member of the Thunder, Corban Joseph in the fourth inning to draw the score even at one. That would be the only blemish on Ramirez as he was pulled after five innings having thrown only 78 pitches. Ramirez allowed just three hits and one walk while punching out seven. On the season, Ramirez has now fanned 33 batters and walked just five over four starts, spanning 24 innings.
Gausman would go six strong frames, blowing away 10 Thunder hitters and walking just one while hitting 99 mph. on multiple occasions. The left handed hitting heavy lineup of the Thunder played heavily into the hand of what Gausman was trying to do and were fooled by off-speed pitches all night long.
“I felt good,” admitted Gausman. “I didnt throw too many sliders, because there are so many left handed hitters in their lineup. My strength is fastball-change-up, so going into the game I knew I was going to throw a lot of change-ups to left handed hitters and that was the pitch for me really, the entire night. I threw it to the right handed hitters too and I think that’s really something that they weren’t expecting also. I had great fastball command on both sides of the plate; it was just one of those nights.”
Gausman felt like his ability to make adjustments in game situations and being able to command all of his pitches on both sides of the plate was his reasoning for ranking his performance as the best of his young career so far.
Orioles envision Gausman as an anchor of their staff for years to come. Photo by: Matt Kardos
“Yeah, definitely,” Gausman said when asked if this was his best start of the season. “I felt good and I felt like I had control of all of my pitches. Like i said, I only threw a couple of sliders but the sliders that I did throw were good, so I would say so.”
Gausman cites the continued growth and development of a third pitch, his slider, as the biggest element of his repertoire that he needs to refine in order to succeed at the next level.
“Going forward, the development of my slider is probably the biggest thing<” said Gausman. “It’s nights like tonight where I wish threw it more, but there were just so many left handed hitters that I kind of played to my strength. I was throwing it in between innings to try and get that feel so when I did have to throw it to a right handed hitter, I wasn’t hanging it or having it feel weird to me, so that’s probably the biggest thing.”
Danny Burawa came on in relief of Ramirez in the sixth inning and was wild and erratic, walking the first to batters he faced in the frame. An error on a one-hopper to second baseman Casey Stevenson allowed the go-ahead run for Bowie to scoot home to make the score 2-1. The error by Stevenson, the Thunders 52nd as a team this season, second most in the league, proved to ultimately be the difference in the game as Bowie would go on to win the game, 2-1.
As for his future, the Orioles view Gausman in the same light as Dylan Bundy, the number one ranked prospect in all of baseball. Together, Baltimore envisions both hurlers as the anchors of their starting rotation for the next decade; Gausman knows that can certainly happens but does not want to rush his way to the big leagues without being polished.
“To be honest, I’m not really expecting anything too soon,” said Gausman. “I’m just trying to go out there and compete and win ball games. Going in to the game I was 1-4 and to me I had some good stats and stuff like that, but to me, I never want to have a losing record; I always want to pitch well enough for my team to win. I’m just trying to have fun and enjoy pitching in places that I’ve never been; I’ve never been to the east coast before so that’s something that is a little different for me. I’ve never been to New Jersey before so it’s been awesome to kind of just hop around and pitch in these different ballparks.”
Gausman may be able to add Camden Yards to that growing list in the not too distant future