Two days before he was officially promoted last Friday from Class A Short-Season Aberdeen to Class A Advanced Frederick, Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman stopped on his tour of Maryland at Double-A Bowie. Then and there, he pitched his in-between-outings side session in the Baysox's bullpen. Oh, and stumbled upon the ace of the staff, Dylan Bundy.
"He's actually two years younger than me, so I felt like an old man compared to him," the 21-year-old Gausman said Thursday, "but it was cool to finally get to meet him, shake hands, talk baseball with him, talk pitching and get to know each other."
This was no meeting of the minds -- but of the arms and of the future in Baltimore. (It's a shame Manny Machado left Bowie a week earlier.) And though these power-armed right-handers have a lot in common -- Bundy was drafted fourth overall in 2011, Gausman fourth overall in '12 -- it would be unfair to make a comparison. Perhaps more unfair to Gausman. Unlike the O's top prospect remaining in the Minors, Gausman didn't make the jump from high school.
"In college, a lot of guys rely on their fastball and curveball or slider," the Louisiana State University product said. "I was kind of rare, more of a fastball-changeup guy."
That's right. Remember all that talk about Bundy needing to rely more on his off-speed offering? Well, the change doesn't come and go for Gausman.
"I would say my changeup is my best pitch and, honestly, the reason I got drafted by the Orioles," he said. "The organization really talks about and stresses fastball-changeup guys. They really like that one-two punch."
The early returns favor his combo: Gausman completed three perfect innings in his Aug. 6 pro debut (a must-read) and three one-hit innings in his Aug. 12 follow-up before showing signs of humanity in his Class A Advanced debut on Saturday. If you're sensing a theme, yes, pitching development director Rick Peterson and Baltimore's brass are limiting Gausman to three frames apiece.
It's almost like the O's have been down this road not only before but this very season.
"It's exciting for me and Bundy. Maybe I'll be playing with him soon or next year," Gausman said. "Hopefully, we can continue to have success and help each other out in the rotation in the near future. That's something we're pushing each other about."
MiLB.com asked Gausman to describe and grade each of the four pitches he is making. (His grade is based on a scout's traditional 20-80 scale, 50 being the Major League average.) Here is Gausman, in his own words.
Pitch one: Four-seam fastball
I didn't start learning to throw it with two fingers until, I think, my seventh-grade year. I don't know why, but I always threw it with three fingers. That's what I threw from the outfield so when I got the mound, I always did that also. I had one coach who finally asked me one day, "How come you always throw your fastball for three fingers?"
Purpose: It's always good when I pitch off my fastball. I've got good velocity and from where my arm slot is -- I have a high-three-quarters arm slot -- I get a pretty good downward plane on my fastball. It's really the pitch that I get the majority of my outs with. It's always good to have that sinking fastball -- I have always had some natural sink, a littler arm-side run -- to live off my No. 1 pitch.
Grip: Across the seams.
Speed: 94-99 mph.
Pitch two: One-seam fastball
I first developed it my freshman year at LSU. My first pitching coach there, coach David Grewe, taught me that I needed another fastball that was going to run a little bit more and have not as much velocity -- to have something else to keep hitters off balance. It was something coach Grewe taught before, and he thought with my high arm-slot, it made sense for me to throw. It was a huge pitch for me. That's why I had so much success my last year at LSU. By the end of the year, that was really the only fastball I was throwing. But it definitely took me a couple of months to fine-tune it to where it is now.
Purpose: This is the pitch that I really get downward sink with. It's a great ground-ball pitch.
Grip: I split one seam with my pointer and middle finger. The natural spin of the ball makes it sink. I've never seen anyone else throw it other than me, but pitchers have certain stuff that they do moving it around the seams. And that's really what it is; it's a two-seam, but the way I throw it is just one-seam. Both pitches do basically the same thing.
Speed: 91-95 mph.
Pitch three: Fosh
It's been great for me in the last two years that I really started developing it. I threw a splitter my senior year of high school and was really inconsistent with it. Then I started messing around with grips and finding what felt comfortable for me and ended up where now it's a fosh split-change. There's not many people that throw it, at least in college. It's very similar to what Tim Lincecum
throws. His is obviously a lot better -- it's pretty unreal. He's known for having one of the best changeups in the game, so I definitely watch him when I can and take notes on what he does. We both have a high arm-slot, and I think that's why it works for us.
Purpose: I throw it as hard as I can and let the grip do the rest. It gives me the speed-differential I need from my fastballs.
Grip: I go with the two seams, and I have my middle finger on the far right side of one of the two seams and my pointer finger is pretty far on the other side. And then I curl my pointer finger around my thumb and so, realistically, the ball is coming off my middle finger. I think that is what gives it so much late sink and a lot of fade also. It's kind of a weird-looking grip, so it took me a while to get comfortable with it.
Speed: 80-85 mph.
Pitch four: Slider
I threw a big slurve in high school, and then when I first got on LSU's campus, I started to develop more of a power slider and have been fine-tuning it. After my freshman year, we got a new pitching coach, Alan Dunn
, who was actually with the Orioles for about 10 years and was their bullpen coach two years ago. Early on in the year, Coach Dunn thought I should start developing a true curveball. So that's something we worked on the entire year, and by the end of the year, he told me I needed to develop more of a power slider. It was weird -- the first day I started throwing it, it was great. Then the second day was terrible, and the third was so-so. It definitely took me a while to develop it. Trying to make it a power slider, which is something I was never taught, it was getting the muscle memory of my fingers and my release point.
I'm not throwing the curveball right now. Me and Rick Peterson sat down and talked about it and felt like, me going forward as a pitcher, the biggest thing will be that consistency with my slider. Possibly, I'll throw it again in the future.
Purpose: It's always great early on in the count. I can also use it to the back foot of a left-handed hitter. I also think one of the best pitches in baseball is a slider low and away to a right-handed hitter. If I can make it look like a fastball for as long as possible, that's a pretty effective pitch.
Grip: 82-86 mph.
Speed: I am around the horseshoe, and then Coach Dunn taught me to whip my fingers toward my belly button when I throw it. That's something I always think about it when I throw it.