There was very little to suggest former LSU All-American pitcher Kevin Gausman was in for such a season that would alter the trajectory of his career.
In his previous eight years in the Major Leagues with four different clubs, Gausman enjoyed one inning season until 2021 where the 30-year-old right-hander for the San Francisco Giants has positioned himself in the conversation for the National League’s Cy Young Award.
It’s because of that type of turnaround season Gausman earned the first Major League All-Star berth where he was selected to the N.L. team that will face the American League in the July 13th game at Coors Field in Denver.
“It seems like a long shot, I was always confident in myself and in my abilities,” Gausman said during Tuesday’s “After Further Review” with Matt Moscona. “For whatever reason I always felt I was given bad luck. I would watch guys pitch around the league and do well and I was just grinding. I would look and just kind of wonder what am I missing? I think I’m just learning.”
Not only does Gausman’s first trip to the MLB All-Star come in his ninth season of professional career, but it provides the unique opportunity to play at the home of the Colorado Rockies where he attended games growing up in his hometown of Centennial.
“I grew up 30 minutes down the street. It’s crazy how things come full circle,” said Gausman, who is the sixth straight player from LSU voted into the All-Star game. “It’s going to be really cool.”
Gausman has evolved into the ace for one of the top teams in baseball, the San Francisco Giants who are tied with the L.A. Dodgers for the best record in the National League.
A big reason for the Giants’ surge has been the improvement of Gausman into a top-of-staff threat where he takes an 8-3 record and 1.74 earned run average into his final start Sunday before the All-Star break.
It’s because of that scheduled start that’s expected to prohibit from Gausman actually pitching in the All-Star game three days later.
“I’ll definitely be enjoying all of the festivities,” he said. “I’m enjoy being part of the coolness. It will be cool to be a part of. I’m not going to be put myself in harm’s way. We’re trying to win a pennant. It’s trying to be smart and not selfish. I would love to pitch there, but at the same time we’re trying to do something bigger than that.”
Gausman was the fourth overall draft selection by the Baltimore Orioles following his All-American season at LSU in 2012. He spent six seasons in Baltimore where he produced one non-losing season in 2014 where he went 7-7 with a 3.57 earned run average and the only complete game of his career.
After a 39-51 record in Baltimore, Gausman spent two years (2018-19) with the Atlanta Braves where he went 8-10 with a 4.77 ERA and one year with the Cincinnati Reds where he was 0-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 22.1 innings of work.
“Some guys’ paths are just different,” Gausman said. “Some guys get to the big leagues and for whatever reason they have to figure it out. They kind of excel right out of the gate and I kind of wasn’t that guy. I had my ups. I had some great moments in Baltimore, but I also had some grind years there were I didn’t feel very good physically but made my starts and just tried to give my team a chance to win and sometimes I wasn’t pitching very well.”
Gausman attributed a turn in his fortune during the 2020 season that was shortened amid the coronavirus pandemic that sent him into quarantine. He said during his time at home in Baton Rouge, he pitched off a mound in his backyard that he purchased where he refined his mechanics.
He said that he worked on his delivery in his garage and during bullpen sessions with current LSU catcher Alex Milazzo. He continually kept strengthening his (right) shoulder and when the season resumed, he went 3-3 with a 3.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 59.2 innings.
Gausman won his first seven decisions before suffering his first loss June 12 in a 2-0 setback against the Washington Nationals. He recorded three games with 10-plus strikeouts, including a season-high 12.
He extended seven of his 17 starts seven or more innings and compiled 124 strikeouts for an average of 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings against only 27 walks for average of 2.2 per nine innings.
He reached the eight-win total – his highest in seven years – in a 10-3 victory June 17 over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s won all four of his starts in which he didn’t allow a run and gone 4-1 against NL West opponents, including 1-1 against the arch-rival Dodgers that handed him a 3-1 loss on June 29.
“Coming into this offseason I knew that I kind of found something,” Gausman said “I barely stopped throwing. I felt I was in a good place and wanted to keep that going. I took it into spring, and I felt like I hit the ground running.”