Results tagged ‘ Brian Matusz ’
Is there any hope for him?
Yes, I think so. Matusz shot through Frederick and Bowie in 2009, reaching the major leagues in his first professional season. He pitched well enough and showed promise in late 2009 and as a rotation starter in 2010, when he was 23. He was hurt at the start of 2011 and pitched terribly in ten starts before being sent down; Matusz was in the 2012 Orioles rotation at the start of the year but didn’t pitch well enough to stay in it. When he was sent to Norfolk, he was converted to the bullpen.
It’s tempting to write him off, and to relegate him to a left-handed relief pitcher role, but I wouldn’t write him off yet. I would make him a left-handed relief pitcher for 2013. It seems to me that Matusz has simply lost his confidence and now has no idea how to pitch successfully. By moving him to a low-leverage relief role, Matusz will have a chance to re-learn how to get batters out, to enjoy success, and to regain his confidence.
And once Matusz has experienced success, it’ll be time for him to get another crack at the rotation. There have been several pitchers who endured some time as a left-handed bullpen arm who were switched to the starting rotation and had long, successful careers. Jimmie Key, Kenny Rogers, and David Wells come to mind. There’s no reason Matusz can’t join them.
The Orioles optioned Chris Tillman to Norfolk, where he’ll join Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken in the Tides’ starting rotation. Although Tillman pitched reasonably well in spring training, it was more of a case where he was pitching well compared to how he had pitched in the majors over the past three seasons, rather than truly pitching well. He’s still only 23, and getting regular work in the rotation will be better for him than inconsistent work as a long man. I’m hoping that he’ll adjust and return to what he was three seasons ago.
Also, the Tides and the Orioles will play an exhibition game Wednesday at Harbor Park. Brian Matusz and Jason Berken will pitch, although it’s not clear who’ll pitch for whom and even if they’ll pitch on different teams. Expect the position players to play five or six innings, but don’t expect the pitchers — especially the relief pitchers — to pitch much if at all.
It should be clear that the pitchers on the 2012 Tides will be determined, in large part, by the pitchers who win spots on the 2012 Orioles. Going into spring training, no one had a spot in the Orioles starting rotation locked up. With two weeks left in spring training, there’s been a little bit of clarification, but there is also still a lot of uncertainty.
- Zach Britton is suffering from “arm inflammation” and is almost certainly not going to be in the rotation at the start of the season.
- Tommy Hunter, another rotation candidate, is making his first spring appearance today. There’s not going to be enough time for him to get ready to be in the rotation by the start of the year.
- Jake Arrieta has pitched more in minor-league games than in big-league spring games, but seems likely to be ready by opening day.
- Brian Matusz hasn’t pitched all that well, but he has a 16-1 K-BB ratio in fifteen innings and looks to be back in the rotation.
- Jason Hammel and Wei-Lin Chen have pitched well enough to solidify spots in the opening-day rotation.
- Alfredo Simon is still hanging around, but hurt his cause by not telling Buck Showalter that he had hurt his groin. That’s yet another reason why I wouldn’t want him around.
- Despite Zach Britton’s unavailabilty, Chris Tillman hasn’t really pitched well enough to seize a roster spot. Because he has an option year remaining, I think he’ll start the year at Norfolk.
- Brad Bergesen has been pitching out of the bullpen and not pitching very well. He’ll likely begin the season at Norfolk.
- Dana Eveland has pitched slightly worse than Brian Matusz.
Summary — we still don’t really know who’ll pitch for the Tides in 2012.
What happened to him? Can he come back and help the Orioles?
Matusz, who pitched Orioles’ rotation in the second half of 2009 and all of 2010 as essentially a league-average pitcher, hurt himself at the end of spring training in 2011 and missed the first two months of the season. When he returned, he had a terrible 2011 season; 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts, with 18 home runs allowed in less than 50 innings.
While I’m sure there’s been someone that young who’s had that bad of a season before, I can’t think of anyone. Most pitchers who have seasons that bad are either old-line veterans clearly at the end of the line, or pitchers (like Steve Blass in 1973) suffering from Steve Blass Syndrome. Matusz’ control wasn’t great, but it wasn’t Blass-bad; and he’s not a pitcher with an established track record (like, say, 1995 Mike Moore, although Moore’s season, though terrible, wasn’t as terrible as Matusz’. )
It’s tempting to attribute the season to his injury, but that explanation has a problem — Matusz actually pitched fairly well in his first few starts. Then he started struggling; he was sent to Norfolk; was recalled in September, and continued to pitch terribly. So, unless he was simply out of condition and wore down after a few starts, the injury doesn’t appear to be the reason he was so ineffective.
I saw him pitch two games in Norfolk — one on his injury rehab in late May and one after he was sent down. In each case, his line looked a lot better than he did — he got batters out consistently, but he didn’t look dominant. He struck batters out (7 in 5 innings, 6 in 7 innings), walked one batter in each start, and didn’t give up a lot of hits — but somehow, I didn’t watch him pitch and say “Wow! This guy is really good!”
My guess — and it’s only a guess – is that Matusz felt a lot of pressure to be a star. When he struggled, he felt more pressure to be outstanding, causing him to try to make perfect pitches. Then, when he continued to struggle, the Orioles sent him down to Norfolk instead of keeping him in the rotation and easing the pressure.
As I wrote earlier, there’s not much precedent for a year like Matusz’. If all goes well, he can be an effective, above-average innings eater. I don’t think he’ll ever be a great pitcher.