Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the Orioles need everything to go right in order to compete this season, and their rotation’s most promising arm has been shut down with shoulder tendonitis. So… that’s fun.
The injury could be devastating, or it could be much ado about nothing. The club is pointedly optimistic. Manager Buck Showalter, who initially said he hoped Kevin Gausman would avoid the Disabled List (DL), now says a more realistic timetable is the second week of the season. The Orioles compare this injury to the one that sidelined Gausman for six weeks, early in the 2015 season. They hope that the cortisone injection – a first for Gausman – will limit his time on the DL.
Sure. That sounds reasonable, I guess, but I’m not a doctor. Nor did I spend last night at a Holiday Inn Express. When it comes to injury news, fans generally know only one reaction: freak out.
I will not panic about Kevin Gausman shoulder issues. I will not panic….don’t panic… pic.twitter.com/47GL9XughJ
— Bird’s Eye View (@BirdsEyeViewBal) March 20, 2016
Panic or not, we can’t know whether Kevin Gausman will miss significant time. All we know is that some other pitcher on the roster will get the chance to put some starts on his resume. Showalter is fond of saying that the Orioles can “out-opportunity” other clubs, and though it rings as a hollow, silver lining, Gausman’s absence presents one such opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong – I would much rather see Kevin Gausman out there every fifth day. The other guys on roster (and there is quantity – but no assurance of quality) are projected not to make the club for a reason. The Vance Worleys and T.J. McFarlands of the world certainly don’t fill me with much confidence. But it’s important to remember that no winning team rides to the playoffs on the backs of its five starters. Eventually, a team has to dip into its 40-man roster (paging 2012 Orioles). The Orioles will now see exactly how deep their depth is, at the outset of the season.
One arm that does intrigue me is Tyler Wilson. Hear me out – I realize there is a lot NOT to be excited about. After all, Wilson is the organization’s number 18 “prospect,” which says much more about the state of the farm system than it does about Wilson. At 26, he is rapidly approaching a career crossroads in which he either needs to take a step forward, or confirm that he is a AAAA player. He tossed only 36 innings in his debut in 2015, and only 25 of those came in his five starts. As a starter, Wilson posted a 4.05 FIP and a K-BB% of 1%. Put simply, it’s a small sample size – but it’s not particularly exciting, either.
In contrast, Wilson has impressed coaches this year. Without going all “Jake Fox is really mashing” on you, I should point out that Wilson has allowed three earned runs in 9.1 innings pitched in Grapefruit League competition. He’s answering the bell when he’s called, and he’s catching Buck Showalter’s attention. Here’s Buck, talking about Wilson:
Tyler’s a guy that’s been a winning pitcher since 10th grade in high school… He has a great presentation. He is confident. He’s not scared of the competition. There’s a lot to like about him. Sometimes he gets forgotten about, but not by us. He’s a very trustworthy pitcher because you know what you’re going to get.
Now, if “trustworthy” doesn’t sound like the most ringing endorsement, you’re right. I’m not saying that Wilson is in the running to take the ball opening day. Instead, I am merely pointing out that Wilson is presenting himself as an option for that next tier of pitchers who will be called upon to help the Orioles make it back to the post season. If Wilson gets the nod in Gausman’s absence, and proves that he can get outs at the major league level, the margin of error – which, at the moment, is razor thin – gets a little wider for the Orioles.
After all, wouldn’t it be nice if everything didn’t have to go right for the Orioles? Here’s hoping that Kevin Gausman is able to start the sixth game of the season. But if not, let’s hope that Tyler Wilson can hold down the fort reasonably well until his return.