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Gausman perfect for three in debut

No. 4 overall Draft pick brings superstitions, quirks to O's farm
August 6, 2012
Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman has already thought long and hard about what it will be like to play in Baltimore, squaring off with divisional rivals like the Yankees and Red Sox.

But on Monday night, his journey to the Majors began more humbly in Happy Valley in the heart of central Pennsylvania.

Making his professional debut with the Aberdeen IronBirds, the 21-year-old right-hander was every bit as good as advertised. He retired all nine batters he faced as Baltimore's Class A Short-Season affiliate beat the host State College Spikes, 4-1.

"I felt good. It was kinda good to get the first one out of the way because I haven't been in a game in almost two months since pitching at [Louisiana State University]," Gausman said.

"But it was weird. I told one of the reporters here that it's the first time I've ever been to Pennsylvania other than flying through Pittsburgh. It was ironic that I was making my debut in a state I've never been to. But I love traveling and baseball has had me all around the world."

Gausman recorded two strikeouts, two groundouts and a popup in foul territory down the left-field line. The other four outs came on fly balls as Gausman relied on his three-pitch mix to keep the Spikes off balance.

"I was pitching off my fastball," he explained. "Of the nine batters I faced, I threw first-pitch fastballs to eight of them. But I had a really good mix of all three of my pitches. My changeup is going to be a big pitch for me, and I got a couple ugly swings and a weak pop fly to right field on my slider.

"There were no nerves. My last pitch was in front of 11,000 people at LSU. It seemed kinda quieter here. I felt like I was on my own little island, and that island was the mound."

Gausman went 12-2 with a 2.77 ERA and two complete games in 18 games -- including 17 starts -- in his final season at LSU. He struck out 135 batters over 123 2/3 innings, walked 28 and held hitters to a .229 average, the lowest among the team's starters. He also uncorked 18 wild pitches and hit two batters.

Baltimore selected the Colorado native fourth overall in June's Draft after the three teams picking before the Orioles -- Houston, Minnesota and Seattle -- all took position players.

Reports began to surface that Gausman was considering going back to LSU for his senior year, but the 6-foot-4 farmhand inked a deal with a $4.32 million signing bonus moments before the July 13 deadline.

"I love LSU, it will always be a second home to me," said Gausman, who threw 31 pitches Monday night and revealed he will be kept to a three-inning limit for the foreseeable future. "I've been there for the last two years, but I was just happy to get a deal done.

"I threw 123 innings this year and that's a pretty big workload, so I went home [after the Draft] for two-and-a-half weeks. I didn't throw at all. then I started to build up my body and get back into shape."

Three days after signing with the Orioles, Gausman reported to the team's spring facility in Sarasota to throw bullpen sessions. He then joined the team Friday evening, keeping his new teammates waiting in Williamsport. "They were mad at me for that," he joked. "But everybody has been really nice and the guys on the team are great."

But as many headlines as Gausman hopes to make on the mound, it's his quirky and superstitious personality off the field that has brought excitement to the clubhouse.

Among his idiosyncrasies is a pregame socks routine and a mid-game donut obsession. Before every start, he puts his right sock on first. Then he takes it off and goes and grabs a drink. Upon returning to his locker, he repeats the routine. Then he does the same thing with his left sock, getting up and walking to fetch a drink each time.

When he's ready to take the field, he takes pains to jump over the chalk lines. Then before the first pitch of every inning, he crow hops on the mound and fires the ball to the catcher, much the way similarly quirky right-hander Trevor Bauer does before his first warmup pitch.

Then once the game is underway, he eats four powdered Hostess Donettes donuts every inning.

"My donuts made their pro debut too," he said with a laugh. "The guys who didn't know about that thought it was pretty weird. It probably started in my freshman year or in eighth grade.

"I didn't eat dinner one day and I asked my mom to pick me up something. She picked up some donuts and I threw a no-hitter that day. I'm very superstitious. I'm a goofy guy."

On Monday, Cameron Coffey (2-5) surrendered a run on two hits and a pair of walks over five innings of relief, and Tom Winegardner worked a perfect ninth to seal the victory.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to