Orioles send Kevin Gausman back to Triple-A

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Kevin Gausman allowed just one run over 5 1/3 innings and struck out a career-high seven batters yesterday in a start against the Red Sox, but the Orioles announced this afternoon that he has been optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk. While it’s a little strange on the surface, they have done it with an eye on his workload.

Gausman has already logged 78 2/3 innings this season between the majors and the minors. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 129 2/3 innings last year, so a big jump could put him at risk for being shut down in September. Orioles manager Buck Showalter told Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com that today’s decision will allow Gausman to pitch the rest of the year without an innings limit.

“Instead of knee-jerking with it yesterday, we decided to think about it a little bit because we had a day to play with. His last day down there if we wanted to bring him back would be the last day of the All-Star break. So this allows us, if and when he comes back, to use him for the rest of the year according to how the opposition lets him go in the game. That, and we needed a relief pitcher (today). We needed an arm in the bullpen.

“You just don’t want to have it jump up on us the middle of September or something and not be able to us him.”

Gausman owns a 3.51 ERA and 24/13 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings over six starts with the Orioles this season and has allowed one earned run or less in four of them. He could make a major impact during the second half if the Orioles take the reins off him.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.