Two years ago, after the Los Angeles Dodgers selected him in the sixth round of the MLB draft, Kevin Gausman put off pro baseball to join LSU’s pitching staff.
The move paid off June 4 when the Baltimore Orioles used the fourth overall pick on Gausman, completing a significant move up the draft board by the talented right-hander from Colorado.
But as Gausman entered the week yet to sign a pro contract, he left open the possibility of once again putting off pro ball and returning to LSU for his junior season.
“I do know he loved his time at LSU,” Clair Gausman, the pitcher’s father, said Thursday by phone. “It would certainly be OK to him if he ended up back in Baton Rouge. But I really don’t want to speak for him more than that.”
Kevin Gausman could not be reached for comment.
The Orioles have until 4 p.m. Friday to sign Gausman, who was eligible for the draft as a sophomore because he turned 21 in January. If they do not sign him, he can return to LSU as a junior and again be eligible for the draft next year.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri is scheduled to meet with the media at 4:15 p.m. to discuss how the draft has affected the Tigers and to break down the 2013 roster including newcomers who will join the program this fall.
Clair Gausman said he wasn’t sure how close the Orioles were to reaching a deal with his son.
“I really couldn’t tell you. I’m not trying to dodge anything, but parents at this point are really kind of left out of the loop. I’m sure there are some things happening, but I really couldn’t be an honest judge,” Clair Gausman said.
Under baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Gausman has a suggested signing bonus of $4.2 million.
Gausman, the first pitcher selected last month, is the only player among the draft’s top five picks who has yet to sign. All four of the other top-five picks signed for less than the suggested signing bonus.
“We are making progress,” Orioles director of scouting Gary Rajsich told the Baltimore Sun on Thursday morning. “We’re waiting to hear their next proposal.”
Gausman is the second-highest drafted player in the history of LSU baseball behind Ben McDonald, taken by the Orioles with the first pick of the 1989 draft. LSU has never had a player who was taken in the first round return to college the following season.
Unless their 2012 ace goes against conventional wisdom, the Tigers shouldn’t have much drama Friday as the signing deadline arrives.
Closer Nick Goody signed with the New York Yankees after being picked in the sixth round last month. Outfielder Raph Rhymes went in the 30th round to the Yankees but announced that he would bypass pro ball and return to LSU for his senior year.
Three recruits who signed with LSU have signed pro contracts: Pitcher/infielder Joey Gallo signed with the Texas Rangers after being taken with the 39th pick, infielder Jesmuel Valentin signed with the Dodgers after going with the 51st pick, and outfielder Hayden Jennings signed with the Washington Nationals after being drafted in the sixth round.
Pitcher Will LaMarche and infielder Alex Bregman were drafted in the 18th and 29th rounds, respectively. Both are expected to be on campus this fall.
Gausman went 12-2 last season with a 2.77 ERA, registering 135 strikeouts and with 28 walks.
He seemingly got stronger as the season progressed, beating Vanderbilt and South Carolina in complete-game efforts on back-to-back weekends. But he lost to Stony Brook in Game 2 of the super regional after earning the win in Game 1.
“He loved playing there,” Clair Gausman said. “It was a great experience.”
Kevin Gausman has spent much of his time back home in Centennial, Colo., since the season ended. He has focused his mind away from baseball, Clair Gausman said, but has continued to stay in shape.
Two or three times a week, Clair Gausman said Kevin and his older brother Brian have run the steps at nearby Red Rocks Amphitheatre. On Tuesday, he said they climbed Mount Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado at 14,440 feet.