The key to the Orioles’ 2014 season may be Kevin Gausman. A year ago, the Orioles were eager to look at him in spring training, and he ended up staying around much longer than Dylan Bundy.
Gausman pitched 82 innings in Bowie and Norfolk and 47 2/3 with the Orioles. He's still a rookie, and the Orioles will carefully monitor his innings.
He’s expected to start the season at Norfolk. If the Orioles don’t sign a free agent starter, they could use Gausman in the rotation at the start. They also could still send him to Norfolk and use Zach Britton or Steve Johnson.
Gausman started five games for the Orioles before he was sent down. He had a 7.66 ERA in those games. As a reliever, Gausman allowed nine runs in 23 innings, a 3.52 ERA, and his WHIP was just 1.043. As a starter, it was 1.622.
His future is as a starter, not a reliever. If the Orioles had five good starters, then Gausman could close for a year, but that’s not going to happen.
The best bet is that Gausman goes down to Norfolk, dominates and then returns to Baltimore for good six weeks or so into the season.
A rotation of Gausman, Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris or a free agent—maybe A.J. Burnett—could be better than average. It will have to be if the Orioles are to contend.