Friday would have been a 25-donut night for Kevin Gausman. Sadly, those days, amid talk of a possible promotion to Baltimore, are over.
Following speculation that he might join the parent club, the Orioles' No. 2 prospect recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts over six innings for his second win of the season as Double-A Bowie edged Trenton, 2-1, at Arm & Hammer Park.
Gausman (2-4) held Trenton to a run on four hits and a walk, lowering his ERA to 3.11. It was the fifth straight start in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer, while the 10 strikeouts eclipsed his previous best of eight, accomplished most recently on April 28 against Harrisburg.
"It's nice. Anytime you put another win in that column, it feels good," said Gausman, whose other victory came on April 11. "I'm definitely excited. I felt good, and going forward, hopefully I can keep doing the same thing."
The 22-year-old right-hander was mentioned as a possible candidate for promotion this weekend after the Orioles placed starters Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen on the disabled list. That idea was squashed by O's executive vice president Dan Duquette, who said now was not the right time to bring up the 2012 first-rounder.
"Gausman is doing fine," Duquette told MLB.com. "I'm going to tell you he's not a candidate for us to recall him. He's doing fine at Double-A, and he's getting used to professional baseball. ... He's doing fine where he is. He's getting his feet on the ground and learning about the routine of pro baseball."
Gausman said he heard the rumblings via Twitter. It made him wonder if he really is ready for the call.
"I don't really know," he said. "When I was in big league camp, I thought I adjusted really well, but it's a learning process and I feel like I did pound the zone enough up there and I think my changeup could play up there. But my biggest thing is to develop my slider, start throwing it more. I want to be able to throw it consistently, I want to be able to throw the back-foot slider with two strikes. That's the biggest thing I'm working on now."
Whether it's Major League caliber or not, Gausman's slider-changeup combo produced the best strikeout effort of his brief career. And he reached double digits without the help of powdered donuts. The LSU product's various superstitions gained attention this spring.
Since his middle school days, Gausman ate one mini powdered donut before each start, then consumed four more after each inning he pitched. He also unleashes a violent crow-hop pitch while charging the mound before every inning and has a complex routine of putting on his socks before games. Orioles outfielder Adam Jones got wind of the donut ritual and punked Gausman in Spring Training when he filled the pitcher's locker with 1,700 donuts.
But Gausman is growing up and the donuts, like the company that produced them, are no more.
"I actually scratched it, I'm not doing that anymore," he laughed. "I'm trying to find something else, but nothing fills that role like Hostess donuts. I kind of felt like it wasn't the best thing for me, for all the innings you throw in pro ball. So I think it was a smart decision."
Quirks aside, the fourth overall pick in the last year's Draft, threw 60 of 90 pitches for strikes while facing 23 batters. Trenton scored its lone run off Gausman in the second when Yankees No. 4 prospect Slade Heathcott hit a one-out triple and scored on a fielder's choice by Ali Castillo.
Bowie got the run back in the fourth on Caleb Joseph's seventh homer of the season, then put its starter in line for the win when Ty Kelly walked and scored on second baseman Casey Stevenson's error in the sixth.
"After the second, I felt really good. I was commanding the fastball to both sides of the plate," Gausman said. "I felt like they had a lot of good left-handed hitters, so I was throwing a lot of changeups. I know my development with my slider is my biggest challenge right now. That's something that's frustrating, not being able to throw it as much as I'd like."
Gausman has pitched well in his first season at Double-A, despite a lack of run support. After a mediocre debut and a rough night on April 16, he's allowed six runs over 30 1/3 innings in five starts but had no wins to show for it until Friday.
His record doesn't bother him, though.
"I just try to pitch well and if it doesn't go your way, then whatever," he said. "You focus on throwing strikes and pounding the zone and as a strater, I try to keep my team in the ballgame."
As the strikeouts began piling up -- he struck out the side in the fourth and fifth -- he finally noticed a trend.
"I think any pitcher kinda knows that when you have a good night, strikeouts-wise, everyone notices that," he said. "But it was kind of weird. I didn't think about it at all. Even when I had guys with two strikes, I wasn't trying to get a strikeout. And then I thought to myself, 'Oh, wow, I think I've struck out this guy twice,' stuff like that. I definitely wasn't really trying to. Basically, I got a lot on my changeup and some on elevated fastballs.
"My fastball command was the best it's been all year, and I've been pretty good all year," he added. "I felt like I was going in and out really effectively and just pounding the zone."
Performances like Friday will only fuel the speculation about Gausman's Major League debut. So far, Double-A hasn't been too stressful.
"It's been pretty easy, to be honest," the Colorado native said. "It's a little different from what I'm used to. I've never been to the East Coast, so that's been weird."
When Gausman departed Spring Training with his bags of donuts, he felt comfortable, both in his ability and with the Orioles' plans for his future.
"When I had my exit meeting with Buck Showalter and our pitching coach, Rick Adair, when they sent me down to Minor League camp, that was something we talked about a lot," he said. "Buck talked to me about getting into a routine. This is my first full year, joining a five-man rotation is something that's definitely new for me. But going forward, I felt great about it. And that's a big factor, the fact that Duquette said something about it makes me feel like I need to work on it.
"What they did with Manny [Machado] and [Dylan] Bundy is really exciting -- any guy in our organization will tell you that, they're not afraid to call guys up from Bowie. You don't have to go to [Triple-A] Norfolk, and that's pretty cool to me. Any moment, they can call you up."