Kevin Gausman was called up in an emergency situation on Saturday, and all he managed to do was dominate the Oakland Athletics, one of the better clubs in major league baseball. Gausman gave up a single earned run, scattering four hits over seven innings. It was a good start, the impact of which was probably overstated because the rest of the rotation has been so uneven.
Gausman will pitch again on Thursday, against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays are on an extended hot streak, but even if they come back down to earth, their lineup is incredibly potent. But here’s the question: what do the Orioles do with Kevin Gausman if he turns in another good start against Toronto? When does Kevin Gausman stop being the solution to “we need a body” and start getting an honest audition for The Show?
A good outing by Gausman would force tough decision for the ball club. The rotation has been decidedly mediocre in 2014, and its top two starters have only anchored the staff in as much as they’ve weighed it down with ghastly numbers. There’s no one that has been stand-out-terrible that isn’t either “the number one starter” or “being paid $50MM” to remove in favor of the 23-year old.
The easy answer is that they send him back to the minors until there is another need. That answer is easy because it avoids all these tough decisions. Sending Gausman back to the minors sidesteps the question of whether the Orioles are really OK with the rotation they’ve got, and whether one of the mediocre starters should be shipped to the ‘pen in favor of a prospect who might be more.
And there’s the rub. This all assumes Gausman will be good. What if he gets knocked around? Will one bad start put him back on the bus to Norfolk? Moreover, if Gausman proves not to be ready, what is the next step for this organization? With Johan Santana out of the fold, there is no one else in the system that is Major League-ready. Zach Wilt has advocated going all-in on a guy like Jeff Samardzija, in order to maximize this window of contention before contracts come up and the money gets crazy.
On second thought, let’s just hope that Gausman forces the tough questions. And that the Orioles have the right answer.