Reality didn't set in for Orioles pitching prospect Kevin Gausman that he was heading to the major leagues until the moment he boarded his connection flight to Baltimore on Wednesday morning.

"Then, I just kinda was thinking, you know, 'Wow, I'm really here. It's crazy,'" Gausman said. "I wish I had hugged this guy or said thanks and stuff like that, but it didn't really hit me until [then]."

After just 14 starts in the minor leagues, the 22-year-old Gausman arrived at Camden Yards on Wednesday afternoon, getting plenty of handshakes, high-fives and hugs from his new teammates in the Orioles clubhouse. The 2012 first-round draft pick is scheduled to make his major league debut Thursday night in Toronto. He will officially be recalled before the game.

All along, the Orioles planned to call up Gausman at some point this season, but even Gausman couldn't have predicted making his first big league appearance just seven weeks into the season directly from the Double-A level.

"I was kind of shocked," Gausman said.

The Orioles need a capable arm to help stabilize their patchwork starting rotation, and the organization believes last June's No. 4 overall pick out of LSU can help.

"He has the best stuff and the most consistent control of just about any pitcher that we have in the organization," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "So we thought employing his strength for our major league team was the way to go."

Just last week, Duquette squashed rumors that Gausman would fill a rotation spot over the weekend, saying he was not a current option, but a "future" one.

"The future is now," Duquette said Wednesday.

Gausman, who is rated the organization's second best prospect and the 26th overall by Baseball America, has just 64 1/3 professional innings under his belt. But the Orioles are confident that Gausman's makeup can overcome any inexperience.

"A lot depends on maturity," manager Buck Showalter said. "But Friday night pitchers at LSU in front of 10,000 people, he's pitched in a lot of environments. Ability plays. That gives you confidence. The old adage of if they bite as a puppy, they're going to bite as a big dog, it's like I've said many times: Try as you may, you can't screw up the good ones. They're going to seek their level, and we think sooner or later Kevin is going to seek his level. We're hoping sooner."

Gausman, who will be the first member of the 2012 draft class to make the majors, spent most of spring training in big league camp before he was assigned to Double-A Bowie, where he worked on getting adjusted to being part of a five-man rotation and throwing all three of his pitches for strikes.

In his first three starts at Bowie, he struggled to keep the ball down, but he improved his command with each start, combining a mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup and a slider that improved as the weather warmed up.

It took just eight starts there to get the call. Gausman was 2-4 with a 3.11 ERA over 46 1/3 innings with 49 strikeouts and just five walks.

"His starts kept getting better and better stuff-wise, and his ability to just pound the bottom of the strike zone and get his changeup over and his slider just keeps improving," Bowie manager Gary Kendall said. "He did everything. He's a relentless working. He's a guy with great work habits. He did everything he needed to do here."