Orioles leaning on Gausman to boost rotation

Righty notched strong second half in 2016, going 8-6 with 3.10 ERA

Orioles leaning on Gausman to boost rotation

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles are hoping their rotation can be better in 2017. Kevin Gausman is a big reason why.

Gausman took a big step forward in the second half of last season, going 8-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break. The righty, who turns 26 on Friday, had a career-high 30 starts and nine wins in 2016, and he will be relied on heavily this year to keep the rotation in check.

After opening the 2016 season on the disabled list, Gausman went 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA in the first half.

But in six August starts, Gausman went 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA, pitching 36 2/3 innings and allowing just 11 runs (10 earned) with 41 strikeouts. He went six or more innings in five of those six starts, a trend he continued in the season's final month.

Gausman posted a 2.83 ERA over his final 12 starts, pitching 76 1/3 innings and allowing 26 runs (24 earned). The righty consistently pitched deep into games -- often ones with postseason implications -- which could be huge in his development.

Along with Chris Tillman, Gausman joins Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley, who will be pitching in contract years, in the rotation. Then there's the interesting case of 24-year-old Dylan Bundy, who is also vying for the rotation, which should create some competition.

Baltimore's rotation finished 13th in the American League last year with a 4.72 starters ERA. O's starters pitched 886 innings, fourth fewest in the AL.

Gausman, who made $532,000 last year, is first-year arbitration-eligible. He could end up being a bargain should he take another step forward and help the Orioles line up better with division rivals.

Gausman pitched a career-high 179 2/3 innings last year, jumping up from 112 1/3 in 2015 and 113 1/3 in '14. Given his progression, he could be a potential 200-innings guy for the O's in 2017.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.