Matusz out w. back pain

ST. PETERBURG, Fla. — Orioles lefty Brian Matusz will not make Saturday’s scheduled start after he came in on Friday with acute middle back pain, and manager Buck Showalter said the team will wait and see the results of an MRI before determining a plan.

“When he went out to throw [on Friday] and make sure he was ready to go, he had some acute pain there, which wasn’t good,” Showalter said of Matusz. “He only threw two or three throws and then [pitching coach Mark Connor] and them got him off the field and decided to take it to the next step.”

Matusz was scheduled to get an MRI around 5:30 p.m., and Showalter said the team will decide Saturday’s starter after they know the severity of Matusz’s injury and whether his back pain, which is on the left side, is also in the intercostals (rib) region.

Regardless of Friday’s results, Matusz will not make Saturday’s start. Sunday’s starter, Chris Tillman, could be pushed up a day or the team could recall someone from Triple-A Norfolk, such as Ryan Drese or Chris Jakubauskas to make the start. Top pitching prospect Zach Britton, who will open the season in Triple-A due to service time, is another option, although less likely. If the team keeps Britton in Norfolk

until April 21 they will have him under team control for another year. The 23-year-old Britton is on turn to make his next Minor League start on Tuesday.

Extra starter Brad Bergesen, who is in the bullpen as the swingman/longman, could be used on Sunday if Tillman takes Friday’s start but he is not a candidate for Saturday since he threw two innings in a game on Wednesday. Jake Arrieta, who threw six innings on Wednesday, will remain on schedule for Monday’s home opener.

Showalter said Friday the team isn’t sure yet if they are dealing with a disabled list scenario; right now they are just erring on the side of caution with Matusz. Friday’s news is the latest in a frustrating string of injuries for the 24-year-old Matusz, who was hit with a line drive in his left bicep earlier in the week and had a wart removed on the middle finger of his pitching hand earlier in camp. In five games (four starts) he went 0-2 with a 5.93 ERA.

“Just because it’s delayed doesn’t mean it’s denied,” Showalter said of Matusz’s regular sesaon debut. “[The] glass is half full.”

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