Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman shows early signs of an upgrade from Cy Young Ray winner


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CLEVELAND — He’s only got six starts in a season with his new team, so Kevin Gausman isn’t going to get carried away with his successes given the limitations of the sample size.

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And he’s certainly not going to offer any comparisons to the man he replaced. This task belongs to others.

But there’s no doubt that the Blue Jays rotation’s batting throwing co-star has delivered some promising early returns.

The latest proof came in the form of a strong 6.1 inning in tough, windy conditions in Game 1 of a doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field, an 8-3 Jays victory over the Guardians.

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It was the third straight game Gausman has thrown in the seventh inning as he continues to quell memories of 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray. But more on this natural and fascinating comparison in a moment.

From the day he arrived in Dunedin in February, Gausman’s singular goal was not just to be physically strong, but to be an influential force on a rebuilt Jays rotation. So far so good as it has been both durable and deadly accurate.

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“The most important thing is to try to get through spring training healthy, start running and hope everything goes well,” Gausman said on Saturday after improving to 3-1 and having no allowed just four earned runs in his last four outings. “After six (starts), I feel quite satisfied with my position.

“Health-wise, I feel like I’m bouncing back well. I feel like I’m attacking the zone right now and having (the hitters) try to beat me.

Gausman has done that consistently in his six starts, joining Sunday starter Alek Manoah as the most reliable arm in an improved Jays rotation. His striking ability is elite and his splitter nasty, a combination that regularly throws opposing hitters off balance.

And at least from a production perspective, comparisons to Ray will become more intriguing as we progress through the season. And it’s one that fans from both cities will naturally do for the duration of their respective contracts.

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Both men have started six games, with Gausman’s start to the season being significantly more impressive than Ray’s work with the Seattle Mariners. After a tough outing on Friday, Ray’s ERA slipped to 4.38. In 37 innings of work, the southpaw gave up 13 walks, five homers and struck out 31.

Gausman, meanwhile, has worked 38 innings, is yet to allow a home run and, in windy conditions, posted his first walk of 2022 on Saturday. His 2.13 ERA is fifth-best in the American League.

While clearly pleased with his progress, Gausman prefers to let it be known that his work here has only just begun. He signed a five-year, US$110 million contract with the Jays because he liked the trajectory of the team and thought he could be a big contributor.

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And yes, the one-on-one analysis with Ray will be inevitable, especially since Gausman was ostensibly signed to replace him and did so on a remarkably similar contract – also five years but for $115 million. Americans.

“We’re only six games down,” Gausman said. “To be honest, I didn’t really think about (its impact). Each of the (the five Jays starters) has the mentality that all five days were good enough to go further in the game and give our team a chance to win. I feel like we’re pretty confident right now.

As the forward of the rotation guy, Gausman throws with extreme confidence and compiles impressive results to go with it.

After his fifth start, a statistical nugget emerged that he had joined Cy Young as the only pitcher since 1903 to start a season with five straight starts with no walks or homers allowed.

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When he finally walked Franmil Reyes on Saturday, that streak ended and the only thing that angered Gausman was that the free pass happened on four consecutive pitches.

It was once again an exceptional effort, which allowed the Jays to cruise to the kind of stress-free victory that has been rare so far this season. Of the six hits Gausman allowed in the afternoon, all were singles, barely raising a snort of stress.

“Today I wasn’t as sharp.” said Gausman in a neutral tone. “I didn’t necessarily feel as good as I had in the past, but I had some good shots, only gave up singles and not a lot of damage. I certainly wasn’t as sharp as I was, but I think we did a good job attacking them and got some quick outs and quick innings.

After coming through so many tough one-point games, Gausman certainly enjoyed the four-point outburst in the second set leading to a cruiser win.

“It was nice to see the offense break out,” Gausman said. “It’s such a powerful formation and they’re always one or two swings away from changing the game. You saw that pretty quickly today.

“This formation and this team are going to give you a chance to win a lot of ball games.”

Kind of like every time Gausman takes the mound to begin with.

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