Matusz hit with liner

Orioles lefty Brian Matusz exited a Minor League start in the second inning on Monday after being struck in the left bicep with a line drive, although the team doesn’t believe right now that the injury is serious enough to warrant an X-Ray.

Matusz, who was wearing a pressure pad as he spoke with reporters, said O’s prospect L.J. Hoes sent a fastball straight back at him, prematurely ending a game that the Orioles had hoped to get him at least six innings. The game took place on one of the back fields of the Ed Smith Stadium complex and featured six of Baltimore’s Minor League players.

Both Matusz and manager Buck Showalter remain hopeful that he will be ready to start the season on Saturday, although given Matusz’s last outing –in which he exited after recording just four outs – Monday’s news is more of a concern.

“I’m optimistic,” said Matusz, who is the Orioles’ No. 2 starter. “I don’t even think it is going to set me back at all. If anything, I’m upset about not continuing to get my work in. I was starting to feel good. I was starting to get in a good groove. I wanted to get in a little more work. We’ll see how it feels [Tuesday] and just go from there.”

While it’s believed top pitching prospect Zach Britton is likely ticketed for Triple-A, Showalter acknowledged that Monday’s events could open the door for another pitcher to make the club. Britton was not one of Monday’s cuts and the team could wait and see Matusz’s status before making a final decision. It’s far more likely that any concerns about Matusz would cause the team to lean toward having both Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen –who has been slowed by a right forearm contusion — make the Opening Day roster.

“I think [Matusz has pitched enough to be ready], if he’s OK,” said Showalter, who could also switch the rotation order after Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie. “But we’ve still got something going on there with Bergesen and Matusz.”

Even prior to Monday’s events it has been an odd spring for Matusz, who had a wart removed on his left middle finger earlier in camp and has struggled on the mound, pitching to a 5.93 ERA in five spring games.

“It’s been a frustrating spring in that aspect, but at the same time, it’s been a very productive spring,” Matusz said. “I’ve been able to work with Mark Connor and Rick Adair and I feel like I’ve made a lot of strides, a lot of improvements. I’m starting to feel good out there. The wart thing and the line drive back in the arm, it’s things that just happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just a matter of being able to take care of it and move forward. I’m just hoping I’m ready for my first outing on Saturday.”

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