Kevin Gausman impresses teammates in first bullpen session with Blue Jays
DUNEDIN, Fla. – A small crowd gathered as Kevin Gausman began his first official bullpen session as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Players, coaches, scouts, and reporters all slowed down or stopped nearby to watch Gausman pitching to catcher Reese McGuire on Monday at Toronto’s player development centre in Dunedin, Fla. Although other Blue Jays pitchers were also getting their work in, all eyes were on Gausman.
“It’s nerve-racking, to be sure,” said Gausman of being the centre of attention.
“Especially that netting’s not that high over there,” he added with a laugh, referring to protective fencing backstopping McGuire. “I wouldn’t stand back there too close. Especially early on, it’s spring.”
Jokes aside, Gausman’s first spring training session with the Blue Jays caught the eye of Charlie Montoyo, his new manager.
“He located his pitches on his first bullpen, always fun to watch,” said Montoyo, who whistled and wiggled his index finger back and forth to show the action on Gausman’s pitches.
“You know when you go ‘yes!’? One of those.”
Gausman agreed to a $110-million, five-year deal with Toronto on Nov. 30 after a 14-6 season with the San Francisco Giants. The right-handed pitcher had a 2.81 earned-run average over 192 innings in a major-league best 33 games started. He also struck out 227.
Expected to be a key member of Toronto’s rotation this season, Gausman said that every pitcher gets a lot of attention at their first bullpen session of spring training. He said that after working with only one or two people all winter it’s only natural for players to be curious about how their teammates have developed in the off-season.
Still, Gausman couldn’t deny that his blood was pumping after his workout.
“It’s the first time you get that adrenalin, it lets you know that yeah, spring training’s started,” he said. “You always get a little bit more sore after your first ‘pen here, more than any other you’ve thrown the whole off-season.”
One pitcher who particularly impressed Gausman was six-foot-six right-hander Nate Pearson, who has yet to play a full season in the bigs.
“Just a big body guy, throws 100, the ball just explodes out of his hand,” said Gausman, who is entering his 10th season in Major League Baseball. “Hopefully, I can help him out in any way. He seems like he’s just got to gain experience and figure out what works for him.”
Gausman isn’t sure what catcher will become his go-to battery partner for the regular season. Because it’s such an important relationship he wants to get to know McGuire, Danny Jansen, and Alejandro Kirk off the field first, starting with sitting beside them at breakfast in the Blue Jays’ cafeteria.
“I’m a little bit different than most guys that pitch, I’m up in the zone a lot,” he said. “So we’ll be talking about target, presentation.
“Some guys I like to have almost stand up straight and some guys are big enough bodies to where they can just kind of get on one knee and kind of give me a target but it’s kind of just figuring each other out.”
NOTE: The Blue Jays made the signing of pitcher Yusei Kikuchi official on Monday. The Japanese left-hander agreed to a three-year contract worth $36 million. The 30-year-old Kikuchi named an all-star last year with the Seattle Mariners, finishing the season with a 4.41 ERA with 163 strikeouts over 157 innings pitched.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2022.