Blue Jays’ Gausman expresses regret over rushing back from injury

TORONTO — If Kevin Gausman could begin this year over again, he says he would have started the season on the injured list.

The Blue Jays right-hander was sidelined for a good chunk of spring training with right shoulder fatigue. He was progressing well toward the end of camp and pitched in the Blue Jays’ final Grapefruit League game, tossing three innings and 52 pitches against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.

At that point, the Blue Jays had two options: either place Gausman on the IL to begin the campaign and give him time to continue to build up at triple-A Buffalo, or have the right-hander open the season at the back of the rotation. The club decided on the latter and Gausman made his first start against the Rays in Tampa Bay during the team’s fourth game.

In retrospect, that was the wrong call, he says.

“Looking back, I could have benefited from having just another two weeks of getting into my five-day [routine] a little bit more,” Gausman told Sportsnet.

“That’s why, up to this point, I’ve been inconsistent. I think it’s because the foundation that I started this season on was not the greatest. And so, now we’re kind of playing catch up a little bit, trying to find that consistency. But it’s tough once the season starts to make adjustments on the fly.”

Gausman has been uneven over his nine starts this year. There’s been some good, like his seven-inning, one-run performance against the Dodgers in late April, but there’s also been a few ugly, uncharacteristic outings as well. Overall, he’s posted a 4.89 ERA while allowing 53 hits over 42.1 innings, walking 11 and striking out 43.

Those numbers aren’t reflective of the dominant hurler Gausman has been during his tenure with the Blue Jays. The right-hander led all MLB pitchers with a combined 11 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs, over the 2022 and ’23 campaigns, producing a 3.25 ERA over 62 starts and 359.2 innings with 442 strikeouts during that span.

The 33-year-old, who’s in the third season of a five-year, $110-million contract, says he was buoyed by his physical progress as spring training neared its end. As well, he felt a need at the time to step up for the Blue Jays, whose starting depth took a hit with the shoulder injury to right-hander Alek Manoah during camp.

“I think it was a little aggressive on our part looking back, but my last outing in spring was really good,” said Gausman. “The last week-and-a-half before spring ended was really good — there were a lot of positives. And, listen, we just also don’t have good depth that some teams do have. Whereas some teams have seven, eight, nine starters and they kind of pop in when they need to, we don’t have that luxury. And so, with Manoah starting the season on the IL as well, we just didn’t really have anybody. So, I think that might have gone into the decision a little bit.

“That’s just a personal opinion and hindsight’s always 20-20, obviously.”

Blue Jays manager John Schneider says the decision for Gausman to begin the season with the club was made in conjunction with the right-hander along with the team’s medical staff.

“You make the best decision at the time with all the information that you have,” Schneider said. “Was it ideal for him? No, it wasn’t ideal. One spring training outing. But I think that he’s past the point of being built up 1716240984.

“And I get where pitchers get frustrated when they don’t have a normal build up to the season,” the manager added. “In Kevin’s case, he’s such a good pitcher. We weren’t going to do anything to put him in harm’s way. And, at the same time, it was a decent ask for a guy to go out and compete at this level with not having that much of a spring. But I think, in retrospect, you’re good with the decision from a health standpoint.”

Gausman says his main issue right now lies with his delivery. Before beginning his windup, the right-hander will tap his glove as a timing mechanism and so far this season, it just hasn’t felt right.

“When that is out of whack everything else is out of whack,” said Gausman. “So, I think that’s why you’ve seen a lot more inconsistency than you have the last two years.”

His fastball is down a tick this year, falling to a 93.8 m.p.h. average from 94.7 m.p.h. last year, while his splitter has also dropped to 85.3 m.p.h. from 86.3 m.p.h.

Gausman says his splitter has been erratic and not where it should be. The numbers bear that out and show he’s getting far less swing and miss on the pitch — it has a 31.6 whiff percentage this year, compared to a 43.2 per cent rate last season.

The pitch is integral for the right-hander because when it’s going right, he’s able to tunnel it effectively with his fastball for a deadly tandem. If the splitter isn’t working, though, his fastball can lose its effectiveness and that’s what has been happening, evidenced by the fact that hitters are slugging .635 off it.

“I’d say the shape is just inconsistent,” said Gausman of his splitter. “One pitch, it’s really good and it’s the shape exactly how I want it. And the next one won’t be. That’s been the pitch for me the last couple of years — it’s been really consistent. It’s been the same shape and the same spot down in the zone.

“Right now, it’s just a lot more misses that are kind of uncompetitive,” he continued. “A ball out of my hand, starting either too much up or too far down out of my hand. And that’s really been the biggest thing, overall. Inconsistency with that pitch.”

While Gausman has been fighting an uphill battle, as he describes it, he’s still done a good job of keeping the Blue Jays in games for the most part. He’s allowed three runs or less in six of his nine outings, a testament to the right-hander’s ability to adjust and compete when his stuff is not at its best.

He says as the season progresses he should be able to get in enough reps to help re-align his delivery, which in turn will bring back the devastating version of his splitter.

“I’m very confident that I’m going to get there,” said Gausman. “Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later, for all of our sake. I just need to get out there and go through it and keep throwing my split. All it takes is one game to find it, and then you kind of go.”

Source link