Justin Verlander not only enjoys a homecoming of sorts when he pitches at Camden Yards, within driving distance of his home in Virginia. He makes himself at home in the ballpark, having gone 6-0 in seven starts there.
"I like pitching close to home," Verlander said. "It's always nice having family and friends come up. You never want to disappoint."
Kevin Gausman, the No. 2 prospect in the Orioles' system, would like to make Camden Yards his long-term home. His first start there came against the Tigers last June 2, and he delivered six innings of one-run ball.
One of them will most likely leave town happy Wednesday -- either Verlander to the next stop on the Tigers' road trip, or Gausman hoping for another start on his stint up from Triple-A Norfolk.
Whichever team wins the series finale Wednesday afternoon, meanwhile, will hit the road with momentum.
Verlander grew up a Braves fan because he was close to what was then their Triple-A affiliate in Richmond, but Baltimore was his closest big league mark. He was 9 years old when Camden Yards opened, old enough to enjoy the game with his parents.
"I really like the ballpark," Verlander said. "I think the ballpark changed everything as far as integrating the city into the landscape."
Seven times, that landscape has included Verlander on the mound delivering quality starts. He has pitched here every year in his big league career and won each time except for a no-decision in 2007. Even that day, he pitched seven shutout innings.
Verlander gave up two home runs here last June 1, but he took advantage of an eight-run fourth inning by the Tigers to cruise over seven innings of three-run ball. He has made pitching at Camden Yards look relatively easy, but he knows it isn't easy to pitch here, especially when the ball carries in day games.
"Miggy would hit 60 a year if he played here," Verlander said.
Gausman will make his season debut in place of Wei-Yin Chen, who was originally scheduled to make the start, but with Detroit's mostly right-handed-hitting lineup, Baltimore opted to give him an extra day's rest.
"It kind of fits best for our club and the needs, some of the situations that have changed over the past couple days that we need to be prepared for down the road," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the move to promote the righty Gausman and skip Miguel Gonzalez in the rotation.
"Obviously some guys pitch better with extra rest, some guys don't. Kevin, because of some of his inactivity down and the way they've shortened him up, his inning-management is in good shape right now as we sit here in the middle of May."
That inactivity was due to pneumonia, as Gausman was on the Minor League disabled list. He returned Saturday with no issues during a 77-pitch outing.
"I've felt for a while that I could go 90-100 pitches," said Gausman, who found out about the promotion on Monday night and drove from Norfolk on Tuesday morning. "I feel good physically. And more than anything, that's probably most important. I think part of the reason I was kind of held back a little bit was because I was just coming off the DL. They wanted to make sure everything was OK."
Tigers: Detroit awaits decision on Putkonen
The Tigers will soon have a decision to make on long reliever Luke Putkonen, who made his third Minor League rehab appearance on Tuesday. It could well be tied in with their rotation decision as Anibal Sanchez prepares to return from his 15-day DL stint on Sunday.
Putkonen pitched in relief for Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday, retiring the side in order in the seventh inning before giving up three singles and a grand slam in the eighth. He threw 38 pitches, just shy of his 40-pitch limit, and 22 for strikes.
Putkonen's return will give the Tigers the long reliever they've lacked but also haven't needed often given the performance of their rotation.
As long as Sanchez is on track to start, Putkonen could replace Robbie Ray on the 25-man roster. In that case, Sanchez would take the roster spot of one of the relievers on Sunday. If there's still some hesitation on Sanchez, Putkonen could just be part of a straight reliever-for-reliever swap, allowing Ray to remain with the team just in case.
Orioles: Gonzalez to pitch out of bullpen
Gonzalez will have his turn in the rotation skipped, a move that Showalter said is temporary as the club sorts through some things. Gonzalez was in line to start Thursday, but the O's decided to push back Chen. Gonzalez will be available in the bullpen the next few nights instead.
"We will wait to see [Chris] Tillman's side day," Showalter said. "He had a little groin tenderness. I think that's going to manage well, but I want to make sure we are covered for him and Bud [Norris]. If the league decides to do something [about Norris being ejected on Monday], want to make sure we are covered."
Gonzalez, who said he's happy as long as the team is winning, would clearly prefer to start and could be used in this weekend's Kansas City series given the uncertainty around Tillman and Norris. Showalter said he didn't want the right-hander to go on short rest on Wednesday, and the Royals hit right-handed starters much better than lefties.
Gonzalez is coming off one of his better outings of the season, going a season-high seven innings and holding Houston to two runs in a no-decision on Saturday.
• Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez hit back-to-back home runs in the Tigers' ninth-inning comeback Tuesday night, Detroit's first back-to-back homers since Martinez and Omar Infante homered last Sept. 24 at Minnesota.
• Adam Jones has an eight-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .333 (11-for-33) with four home runs and seven RBIs. All but one of his five homers on the season have come during the streak.
• The Orioles are 7-9 this season against opponents from outside their division, though 5-5 against them at home.
• Martinez has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games, batting .387 (24-for-62) with 11 runs scored, five doubles, six home runs and 16 RBIs.