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Gausman Shows Flashes Of Brilliance But Room For Improvement In Debut

Orioles fans weren't sure what to expect when Kevin Gausman made his major league debut May 23.

Some hoped his electric stuff and recent minor league dominance would carry over to a successful outing in his introduction to the majors. Other fans feared that an inexperienced Gausman, who'd never pitched above the Double-A level, would take his lumps against big league hitters.

In the end, it was a combination of both.

Gausman's debut was a tale of two games -- he cruised through the first three innings with relative ease, but his second and third times through the Blue Jays lineup were less kind. Ultimately, he allowed four runs and seven hits, striking out five and walking two in five innings.

Let's start with the good. Right from the get-go, Gausman's potentially devastating repertoire of pitches was on full display. Gausman's fastball was consistently in the high 90s, hitting 97 mph on multiple occasions and even clocking in at 99 when he blew away Jose Bautista on a strikeout in the fifth. While the heater was Gausman's primary pitch during this outing, he mixed in his changeup and slider just often enough to keep hitters honest.

In each of the first three innings, Gausman allowed exactly one baserunner, but didn't let any of them advance past first base. Gausman capped his first major league inning with back-to-back strikeouts of Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind, no shabby way to make an entrance. After three innings, visions of Gausman's impending ace status were dancing in some fans' heads.

Of course, pitching to major league hitters isn't quite that easy, as Gausman soon found out. For as on point as Gausman was with his velocity, his command wasn't as sharp, and he left several hittable pitches in the strike zone that came back to haunt him.

In the fourth inning, the Blue Jays began to square up Gausman and smoked several well-hit balls. Lind and J.P. Arencibia both doubled to start the inning, and Gausman caught a bad break when Brett Lawrie's bunt hugged the first-base line and somehow stayed fair for an infield hit. Gausman -- who showed excellent control at Bowie, issuing only five walks in 46.1 innings -- compounded his problems with a free pass to Colby Rasmus to load the bases, showing some rookie jitters.

A long sacrifice fly by Emilio Bonifacio brought home a run, and Gausman was lucky to get out of the inning without further damage. Munenori Kawasaki attempted a suicide squeeze, but popped out on the bunt attempt, and Chris Dickerson tracked down Melky Cabrera's sharply hit liner to center.

Gausman didn't escape the next inning unscathed, as Arencibia jumped on an inside fastball and crushed it for a two-run homer, which gave the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead. Gausman was finished for the night after that inning, having thrown 89 pitches, 58 for strikes.

All in all, Gausman held his own for a 22-year-old who was fast-tracked to the majors with just 13 career minor league starts to his name. It's easy to see why the Orioles are so high on his potential, as he made several hitters look silly. But baseball is a constant game of adjustments, and the Blue Jays hitters made the adjustments they needed to get the better of Gausman in the middle innings. Gausman will need to refine his command and figure out better ways of attacking hitters, which he's fully capable of doing as he gains experience and seasoning.

Posted May 23, 2013 by Paul Folkemer