ATLANTA -- Kevin Gausman spent the past six weeks on the injured list and took advantage of the chance to decompress. In doing so, he realized that to maximize his talents he needed to stop stubbornly believing he could be successful by simply throwing his four-seam fastball and sinker.
“It was just taking the necessary steps,” Gausman said. “I’ve been hard-headed at some points in my career. Maybe that’s what it was.”
When Gausman returns to Atlanta’s rotation to start Sunday night’s series finale against the Nationals, he’ll attempt to reap the benefits of the time he has recently spent with Braves director of player development Dom Chiti and director of pitching Dave Wallace.
Wallace and Chiti were on the Orioles’ coaching staff when Gausman was progressing through the early portion of his career with Baltimore. They convinced the veteran hurler he needed to start throwing a curveball again and to develop a cutter, which can replace the slider that essentially disappeared from his repertoire this year
Gausman was happy with how he commanded both of these pitches while recording 10 strikeouts over seven strong innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday night. Both pitches could serve as the horizontal complement to his four-seamer and sinker, which will continue to be his primary weapons.
“I’ve really been pounding the zone with pitches during my rehab,” Gausman said. “That’s the biggest thing with pitches, you’re thinking, ‘How will they work when I get in the game?’ They’ve been even better in the game. That’s encouraging.”
Gausman looked completely lost as he allowed 19 runs and 25 hits while totaling just 8 1/3 innings over three starts from May 29-June 10. The Braves responded by placing him on the injured list with right plantar fasciitis.
As Gausman spent some time working with Chiti and Wallace at the Braves’ Spring Training complex in North Port, Fla., he recognized the need to make changes that would prove beneficial this year and beyond.
Gausman’s four-seamer accounted for 57.4 percent of the pitches he threw before being placed on the IL, and he used his sinker 40.4 percent of the time. His feeling was he essentially had three pitches because the sinker had the look of a changeup.
But with the cutter and curveball, he now has a pair of pitches that could force opposing hitters to look for something with horizontal action and be cognizant of the possibility of having to cover a wider portion of the strike zone.
“I’m just excited to be back up here,” Gausman said. “I’ve been watching these guys and itching. I love watching the guys, but at the same time, it’s tough to watch because I want to be here and contribute.”