DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It was just another Grapefruit League exhibition, the first of who knows how many he'll go on to pitch in, but Kevin Gausman couldn't mask his excitement on the mound or as he spoke to reporters afterward.
"I was a little amped up there at the start. Obviously, I should be," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "It was kind of a big highlight in my life."
That highlight was Gausman's Spring Training debut, a 1 2/3-inning relief outing in Baltimore's 5-4 win over Toronto during which he showcased his electric arm and experienced his first real brush with Major League competition. Gausman's fastball touched 98 mph and sat around 96-97, and his sinking changeup clocked in around 82-85 mph.
"It's another step," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Another step, pitching in a Major League Spring Training game on the road."
Gausman came out firing fastballs to start the eighth inning, though he'd been getting ready in the bullpen since the fifth. He issued a seven-pitch walk to catcher Josh Thole with nothing but 96-98 mph fastballs, according to the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium radar gun -- which, to be fair, has been known to be a bit generous in its readings.
Gausman's fastball remained in the upper-90s throughout his 33-pitch outing, touching 98 mph again when he came back out for the ninth inning. But it's hardly a shock that the Orioles' No. 2 prospect, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, can light up a radar gun.
"It falls underneath the [no-surprise] category, too. It's good," Showalter said. "I'm more impressed with Gaus' offspeed stuff. ... The velocity stuff just plays into it."
His outing wasn't without its flaws, of course. After walking Thole and inducing a flyout to right field, Gausman served up a double to Ryan Schimpf -- a former Louisiana State University player like Gausman -- immediately followed by an RBI sacrifice fly to center field by Kevin Ahrens, a Minor League third baseman.
"He got squared up a few times, just enough to make him realize the level he's pitching at," Showalter said.
Gausman's afternoon came to an end when he walked Adam Loewen with two outs in the ninth, prompting Showalter to bring in Rob Delaney to record the one-out save. Worse than the feeling of having to leave the game in the middle of an inning, Gausman said, was the fact that he actually was happy with the 3-2 changeup that Loewen passed on for ball four.
"I knew that I was on a strict pitch count. They were monitoring me for a reason," Gausman said. "I was more [upset] that he didn't chase that pitch. I was pretty [upset] about that. That's what I wanted to do there. I just thought in that situation, he would be swinging there."
But there were more positives than negatives amid Gausman's latest "big highlight," including a few glimpses of the kind of polished, frontline starter many project Gausman will become.
One such instance came against Jim Negrych, the first batter Gausman faced in the ninth inning. The last pitch of Thole's plate appearance the previous inning was inside, just enough so that it was called a ball. But Gausman had the confidence to throw a nearly identical pitch again to Negrych, this time hitting 98 mph right at the edge of the strike zone to earn the called strikeout.
"You have to go inside at the pro level. You have to or else you're just not going to be successful," Gausman said. "I don't think he was really expecting it. And that's exactly what I wanted to do with that pitch."