"I was like, 'What are we doing?'" Gausman said when Brian Graham, director of player development, gave him a bat and had him square up.
What he was doing was preparing for the future.
The Orioles on Thursday will officially promote Gausman and add him to the active roster for his Major League debut that night in Toronto, a bold move for an organization that shocked the baseball world when it called up 20-year-old infielder Manny Machado in the middle of a pennant race last August.
"We're trying to win," manager Buck Showalter said of what went into the decision to call up Gausman after just eight Minor League starts. "And we think he can help us."
Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations -- who said just last week that Gausman would remain at Double-A -- reminded reporters that he technically only said that Gausman wasn't being considered for Saturday's game but would be a candidate for the future.
"The future is now," Duquette said, laughing. "He has the best stuff and the most consistent control of just about any pitcher that we have in the organization, so we thought employing his strength for our Major League team was the way to go.
"When you can add a good player to your team, I think it shows a commitment to the club to field a competitive team day in, day out. When you can add a pitcher of Kevin Gausman's quality, with his stuff and control, I think it tells the team that we want to win."
Gausman, the organization's second-best prospect behind the injured Dylan Bundy as ranked by MLB.com, has allowed 21 runs (16 earned) on 44 hits this season for Bowie, with a 3.11 ERA over 46 1/3 innings with 49 strikeouts and just five walks. Having acclimated to a five-man rotation and the adjustment of playing a game nearly every day, he is coming off a career-high 10-strikeout performance on Friday and will get an extra day of rest before his debut.
"First and foremost, he has good stuff," said Graham. "Outside of all the intangibles, the makeup and the work ethic and the aptitude, this guy has good stuff -- plus-fastball, the ability to command the ball, his changeup is a good pitch and his slider has made good strides.
"Kevin Gausman is an easy guy to like. A very easy guy to like. And then when you see him pitch, you like him even more."
Gausman, who said that Bowie manager Gary Kendall "dropped the bomb" on him on Tuesday night, along with Graham and pitching coach Blaine Beatty, took two flights to get from Akron, Ohio, to Baltimore on Wednesday morning. He was greeted in the clubhouse with uniform No. 37 and hugs and high-fives from teammates, who got to know him quite well during Spring Training.
So well, in fact, that both right-handed reliever Darren O'Day and closer Jim Johnson teased Gausman about not being late for his first stretch shortly after their new teammate -- still wearing street clothes -- held court with the media.
Center fielder Adam Jones, who had Gausman's locker adorned with miniature powdered donuts this spring -- a nod to Gausman's tradition of eating them between innings at LSU -- took to Twitter on Tuesday night to say that he may have to get more donuts.
"It's definitely something I'll never forget," Gausman said of walking into the clubhouse. "Spring Training, part of the reason they kept me there so long was to kind of get used to being around these guys. I think they did a really good job of having younger prospects, guys like me and Bundy, around those guys a lot. So when it does happen like this, it doesn't feel like we don't know anybody on the team."
Much like it was with Machado, makeup was a huge factor in Gausman's promotion, and his presence could be a shot in the arm for a club that snapped a six-game losing streak on Tuesday night. The O's have already used 10 starters this season, and injuries to Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez -- who came off the disabled list on Tuesday -- coupled with the underperformance of Jason Hammel and some of the younger guys in Triple-A have left the rotation in a constant state of flux.
Gausman, who will get his first taste of Interleague Play with his second scheduled turn, against the Nationals next week, will get every opportunity to prove he can help bolster the rotation.
"He has tremendous maturity on the mound," Graham said. "He's one of those kids that has the special look in his eye. I know we had to make a tough call on Manny Machado last year, and the intangibles came into play heavily. And I think Gausman is very similar in that he will handle adversity, if he has adversity. I think he will handle the pressure."
Added Showalter: "It's kind of who we are and where we are. It's always been a thought that it looked like it was going to be 'when,' and not 'if.' He spent a lot of time down there doing some things he needed to do, and talking to Brian and Gary Kendall, our pitching people, everybody felt like he was our best option right now to bring up here."
Gausman, who said that his father -- who didn't answer the phone when he first called -- told him his mother nearly fainted when she heard the news, was still in a state of shock.
"I don't really think it hit me until today, until my second flight here from Atlanta," he said. "Then I just kind of was thinking, you know, 'Wow, I'm really here. It's crazy.'"