SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman has spent most of the offseason away from baseball, attending LSU football games, traveling with his girlfriend and learning how to cook.
His girlfriend's mother - the "best cook in the world," as Gausman described her - taught him how to prepare a few Cajun dishes, and he appears to be carrying some gumbo weight. Gausman said he's put on about 12 pounds after dropping down to 183 last season, and he'd like to stay between 195-200 this year.
"I tried to eat healthy, and I think Louisiana food can help you gain a little bit of weight," he said this morning before heading outdoors for the final mini-camp workout, which included a bullpen session.
"I've been busting my ass in the weight room and trying to get after it. I think if I can get to around that 200-pound mark for the entire year, I think that would be a healthy weight. One thing I learned last year is I started to lose weight during the year, and most guys usually gain weight, so that was something a little weird for me. So this year I kind of have a better idea of how to maintain it. Toward the end of the stretch, in August, was a real month I had to grind because I had never pitched in August before, so there's about two weeks in August when I was really kind of hanging a little bit. But now I feel like I've gone through the first full season and I can kind of hit the ground running.
"It was weird for me because the skinnier I got, the harder I threw. It didn't make sense for me. Maybe I'm more aerodynamic or something."
How's that for analysis?
Gausman already had his meeting with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.
"It was great," he said. "We just had a quick conversation. It was kind of like an interview process. They just wanted to get to know us and what makes us tick. They asked me a great question that I don't think anyone's asked me: 'What can we do to help you get better?' It kind of took me a little bit to think about, but it was just good to be in there and talk to them.
"They seem really laid back. I feel like you can go to them and talk about anything. Not only pitching, but just anything. They've been around the game for so long and they've had so many young pitchers that they've kind of developed, so that's cool for me and (Dylan) Bundy and (Hunter) Harvey, too, I'm sure. It's exciting for all of us.
"I just said like, 'Just kind of push me. I'm going to pick your brain and I'll probably get a little bit annoying eventually, because that's just how I am.' I like to pick people's brains, and I think some of the guys last year got a little bit tired of me doing that. And I just told them to get on me if they have to. I'm a pretty coachable guy, so anything you say to me, I'm going to consider. I'll do anything."
Gausman intends to compete for a spot in the rotation, though he'd settle for a relief role if it keeps him in the majors.
"That's definitely my goal," he said. "I definitely want to make the rotation and I want to be on the team on the starting day on opening day. But obviously, anything I can do to help the team. I think I showed I can pitch out of the bullpen. I think that's an option, but I think I'm going to be a starter for the most of the year and I can definitely see them doing something later in the year, making me a reliever like I did this year, because I'm sure they're going to have an innings limit on me. I'm sure around 160-170. I hope not. I hope they just let me kind of go.
"I don't think anybody can really get to 200 innings without actually doing it. You want me and Bundy and all these guys to throw 200 innings every year, you've got to let them get there. You're going to have to let them throw 120-plus pitches sometimes, which I'm fine with. I can definitely seem them later in the year kind of pulling back the reins on me and kind of pitching me out of the bullpen. I kind of thought I showed I could pitch out of there."
Either way, he's more prepared heading into the 2014 season.
"I think it starts in spring training," he said. "I think last year I did a good job of making sure that I had a good relationship with most of the guys, so that when I do get called up, it wasn't like, 'Who the hell is this guy? He's trying to take my spot.' And stuff like that. It was more like, 'Oh, hey, we want him to pitch well.' And I think it's good when you have that.
"You see it in the minors more than in the big leagues, guys kind of looking over their shoulder and stuff like that. But that was definitely one thing for me looking back that helped me out was spring training, kind of being around for a while, and I was one of the last guys to leave. Just picking those guys' brains and learning from them. Knowing more than just the baseball stuff about them. Asking them about their families and stuff like that.
"There's some guys that you kind of stay clear of. You realize guys who you shouldn't really talk to or who would take you talking to them the wrong way, but then you have guys who are open to you coming up and talking to them - Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, guys like that. But it was fun."
Gausman said he started throwing on Dec. 10.
"I think it was important the first day I started throwing," he said. "I always try to throw early because it takes a little extra time for me to get ready. From when I first started working out, that's really the foundation of how your year is going to go. And if you haven't been doing anything, it kind of shows up here at mini-camp and when you get to spring training.
"I've put on 12 pounds already. I feel great physically. I'm probably somewhere the best physically I've felt. Obviously, I don't know how I feel off the mound, but I'll get off the mound today for the first time. I think it's definitely the foundation for everything."
Note: The New York Post is reporting that Alfredo Aceves' deal with the Orioles stipulates that he must be on the major league roster by March 28 or released within 48 hours, and on the major league roster by June 30 or released within 72 hours.
Showalter headed into his office this morning to call Aceves.