It was just one start, and it obviously didn’t last particularly long.
And it was against a Tampa Bay Rays’ offense that is among the worst in the American League in most categories.
But given that it was Kevin Gausman’s first big league outing of the season, that he pitched five strong innings and that he appeared healthy, Monday at Tropicana Field has to be viewed as a small victory for the Orioles despite a 2-0 loss to Chris Archer and the Rays.
It was the first time the Orioles have been shut out in 2016, but the fifth time in seven games the club has scored three or fewer runs. This offense is definitely going to be streaky, but it’s the performance of the starting pitching that will help shape this season.
Given that, the Orioles definitely need a healthy and productive Gausman if it is going to continue to make noise in the AL East.
And the 25-year-old reminded us Monday why the Orioles are so excited about his upside.
He only completed five innings – throwing 91 pitches in that span – but he was impressive. In fact, he was dominating at times, like striking out the side in the third with three, four-seam-fastball out pitches: one at 97 mph, one at 99 and one at 96.
Gausman’s fourth pitch of the game, also a four-seam fastball, was clocked at 99 mph by mlb.com’s Gamecast and he hit 99 in each of his first four innings; his slider was equally sharp.
Overall, Gausman allowed three hits, two walks and struck out seven batters. The only run he surrendered was in the fifth, when he issued a walk on a full-count slider to Steven Souza Jr., that looked like a strike. Two batters later, he gave up a RBI double to Curt Casali.
He appeared to tire some in the fifth, which is to be expected in his first start off the disabled list.
There was plenty, though, to be encouraged about.
Flaherty’s demotion a surprise
Yes, I knew utility infielder Ryan Flaherty had a minor league option remaining. So he probably should have been considered a possibility to be demoted to Triple-A Norfolk when Gausman was activated from the disabled list.
But I never really figured the Orioles would use the option in this instance.
Monday’s decision leaves the club with a three-man bench: Fourth outfielder Nolan Reimold, reserve catcher Caleb Joseph and seldom used outfielder Hyun Soo Kim.
It gives them eight relievers including two long men in Vance Worley and T.J. McFarland. That’s certainly a need considering the rotation is delivering truncated starts continually.
But it really surprises me that Orioles manager Buck Showalter will go without a backup at every position now. It basically means that Pedro Alvarez could be pushed into emergency infield duty at third base if something happened to Manny Machado or J.J. Hardy.
And I’m not quite sure what the Orioles’ alignment would be if second baseman Jonathan Schoop is an unexpected scratch.
Showalter is the king of the ‘what if,’ and this move leaves them without a solid ‘what if’ plan for at least 10 days, since Flaherty will have to be in the minors that long before being eligible to come back.
Unless, of course, he is summoned to replace a player who has been put on the disabled list.
The interesting thing is that there were plenty of times last year that the Orioles could have sent Flaherty down in order to keep a player who didn’t have options remaining, but instead chose to waive those players.
I’m not sure what changed this year. But I also wonder if more moves are on the horizon – perhaps a DL stint for someone whose injury hasn’t been revealed to the media.
Jones winces in the ninth
MASN cameras showed Adam Jones wincing and dropping his head after taking a ferocious swing in the top of the ninth Monday. Jones took longer than he usually does in between pitches to ready himself, but stayed in the game. He grounded out and ran hard – like usual – to first.
The cameras showed him talking with athletic trainer Richie Bancells in the dugout after the at-bat. It appeared he was telling Bancells he was fine. I can’t imagine Jones would have stayed in the dugout if the Orioles had rallied and had to play the bottom of the ninth. My guess is he would have been in center.
Jones is one of the tougher guys who I’ve covered. He’s going to play through pain as much as he possibly can. But you have wonder how much the rib-cage injury he suffered earlier this month is lingering.
Mancini to Triple-A Norfolk; a bit late
First baseman Trey Mancini, who won the organization’s 2015 Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award, has been promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after hitting .302 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 17 games at Double-A Bowie.
As part of the transaction, ex-big leaguer Joey Terdoslavich was sent to Double-A Bowie after hitting .140 with 13 strikeouts at Norfolk.
I’m all for deserving promotions, but here’s a question: Why was the 24-year-old Mancini in Bowie anyway after he dominated there last year (.359 in 84 games), while the 27-year-old Terdoslavich was blocking his way at Triple-A? It was a head-scratcher when the assignments were made and is still a head-scratcher. The good news is it took fewer than three weeks to reverse.
Gonzo’s return to the bigs
Miguel Gonzalez made his first, non-Orioles’ big league start Monday night, pitching for the Chicago White Sox against the Toronto Blue Jays. It didn’t go particularly well for the veteran right-hander whom the Orioles cut this March.
Gonzalez allowed five runs on 11 hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings. He left with his team trailing 5-0, but didn’t get saddled with the loss when the White Sox rallied against the Blue Jays bullpen for a 7-5 victory.
The White Sox are coming to town for a four-game series at Camden Yards starting Thursday, and it would be great to see Gonzalez back in Baltimore, where he spent four seasons. He was a favorite among his teammates, fans and the media.
No word yet on whether he’ll be in the rotation, bullpen or sent back to Triple-A. That start probably didn’t help his cause, though it was against the mighty Jays’ offense in Toronto. So hopefully the White Sox give him one mulligan and a trip to Charm City.