Results tagged ‘ Brian Matusz ’

What do you do?

I’m off this series in Toronto with a prior engagement, but I’ve gotten a bunch of emails and questions on Twitter –enough to make me check out the remnants of last night’s game via the box score.

The question is, what do you do with Brad Bergesen? Should you have left him in longer? Do you call up Zach Britton in his place? Do you let Britton continue to develop?

Like I said, I’m not with the team and I don’t play couch-GM nearly as good as my friend/colleague MASN’s Roch Kubatko. I’ll be back with the O’s for Kansas City on Thursday, and by then I’m sure we will know Bergy’s fate.

The thing is, I’m not sure what the right move is here. It’s hard to punish a guy who is far from alone in his struggles. Do you send all the young guys back to Norfolk? Or do you let them develop in what is essentially a lost season ? Do you weigh each particular case in terms of who can maybe work through their issues up here and who can’t?

I wasn’t covering the Orioles last year and only vaguely remember Brad Bergesen when I covered an Os-Yanks series. I’ve heard he was great, a pleasant surprise for Baltimore. I’ve seen flashes of it (like that game at Fenway Park), but for the most part Bergy’s been ineffective. Is it mental or mechanical? Is the League catching up to him?

I’m just as perplexed/astounded as most of you are. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, interim manager Juan Samuel and pitching coach Rick Kranitz. But I certainly wouldn’t want any of their jobs right about now.

I will say this: I’ve done a lot of talking, mostly off the record in the visitors’ clubhouse and on the road. The general consensus about the Os young arms is they’re talented but the expectations placed on them this spring were incredibly unrealistic.
 
“Everything had to go right for those guys to have a chance,” said one rival GM. “And everything has gone wrong.”

None of these guys are even 25 yet. And most of them have about a year of service time -Bergy’s a little more, Jake Arrieta’s a little less, etc.  Will they all be as good as hyped? Probably not. But they aren’t this bad, either.

If they were scattered about other organizations maybe they’d still be in the Minor leagues or be a fifth starter with far less expectation. Instead, they are all up here together, pitching in the AL East with the general consensus being that they are the “Calvary” that will restore the O’s to prominence.

This spring, I spoke with an opposing pitching coach who watched Chris Tillman throw a Grapefruit League game and marvel at the possibilities. “They’re talented,” he said of the O’s young arms. “But they’re still a couple years away.”

The problem with relying on growing the young arms is the O’s don’t have any veterans or journeyman pitchers in the organization, or at Norfolk, who can come up and serve as filler. 

Look at the Tides rotation, or most of their roster in general. It’s a youth movement. I acknowledge that they’re trying to restock their farm system and really build a nice young core, but I think the element of adding a sprinkling of veterans, especially at Norfolk, was incredibly overlooked. Even the guys who are older, so to speak, don’t have years of League experience.

I know several AL teams overpay their Minor League veterans when they’re free agents to get them to stay in the system. The benefits are two-fold : first, you get a solid backup option if your prospects aren’t ready and you need a guy to come up for a quick stint. Two, you get veterans who are generally in good spirits about the organization and willing to help foster a positive, learning atmosphere. You get enough of these guys –particularly those who have been in the bigs — and your Triple-A team also starts to win a lot more games than it loses. In the Triple-A International League the top three teams are the Yankees and Rays affiliates, with Cleveland’s Columbus squad leading the West division. I’m not saying winning in the Minor Leagues is everything, but it’s certainly something.
  
The O’s lack of these types of veterans has also handcuffed them to an extent. It’s hard to trade away Jeremy Guthrie when you can’t think of a guy to take that roster spot. I know Kevin Millwood has come under fire, but he’s usually good for at least six innings.

People are clamoring for Britton to come up, but is he ready? He’s only made a handful of starts since being promoted from Double-A. He’s a guy you don’t want to have to shuttle back-and-forth, like they’ve done (erroneously in my opinion) with guys like Tillman and Bergesen.

This was supposed to be the year they all stood on their feet, so to speak. But having no backup option in case they didn’t, no Plan B, was risky. And now, you’re seeing just how dangerous it is.

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It starts with the starters

Orioles rookie Jake Arrieta became the latest promising young arm to labor through an ineffective and entirely too short start on Sunday, a one-time anomaly that has become a cause for increasing concern.

During the 65-minute rain delay, I got a little bored and was combing through stats and compiling numbers and sharing them with my fellow reporters. Here are a few stats that stand out.

*Excluding Jeremy Guthrie -who has posted two quality starts on the homestand – the Orioles starters have worked just 36 1/3 innings over eight games, allowing 41 earned runs on 54  hits for a 10.10 ERA.

*The starting staff has pitched  a combined 50 innings on the homestand, just six more than the bullpen, and only the 4-10 Guthrie has an ERA under 5 at this point of the season.

*This is why I have a hard time pinning the blame of guys like Jason Berken, Mark Hendrickson and Matt Albers - they are all in the top 8 in the American League as far as innings pitched out of the bullpen. When speaking to pitching coach Rick Kranitz the other day, I asked him if it was a concern that these guys were being used so much, in particular Berken and David Hernandez. Kranitz said they would try to start limiting those guys, but honestly when your starters are averaging 5 innings a game, it’s impossible to do that.

*Here are the ERAs for each starter in the second half. The O’s just wrapped a 2-8 homestand so each starter has had two outings, except for Kevin Millwood who came off the DL to replace Chris Tillman.

Jeremy Guthrie (1-0):
13 2/3 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 1.98 ERA
Brian Matusz (0-2): 6 2/3 IP, 11 H, 9 ER, 12.15 ERA
Brad Bergesen (0-2): 11 1/3 IP, 18 H, 9 ER, 7.15 ERA
Jake Arrieta (0-1): 9 1/3 IP, 11 H, 10 ER, 9.64
Kevin Millwood (0-1) (one start): 6 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 5.77

*Including Tillman’s loss on Monday, the starters are 1-7 to start the second-half and continue to rank last in the Majors in total staff wins with 17. Yes, they should have more wins but they have posted a AL-low 42 quality starts in 98 games, so they aren’t helping their cause quite as often as other teams.

*And to continue to “beat a dead horse” as Samuel put it when asked about the team’s woeful productive hitting here’s a final stat for you. The Orioles two hits with runners in scoring position in the ninth inning on Sunday matched their total for the entire four-game set against the Twins

*In their two wins this homestand, they went 6-for-19 (.316) with RISP. In their 8 losses they were 8-for-69 (.116).

Samuel said no demotion for Matusz

Interim manager Juan Samuel said there has been no talk of a demotion for 23-year-old Brian Matusz, who lasted a season-low 1 2/3 innings on Sunday afternoon. Matusz allowed six earned runs and threw just 52 pitches to mark the shortest stint of his career.

Samuel said sending Matusz to Norfolk –which is what the team has done with Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman at different points this season — is not in his mind, and he made it clear on a follow-up question that the case was closed.

As for the long chat he had when he removed Matusz, Samuel said it wasn’t injury-related. He just wanted to know how Brian was feeling.

“I was basically asking him if he was uncomfortable on the mound today,” Samuel said. “He said he felt like he was yanking, pulling the ball too much there.”

Matusz joins teammate Jeremy Guthrie for the most losses in the American League, and is now 3-10 with a 5.21 ERA. It’s a far cry from the predictions this spring, with scouts raving about his Grapefruit League showing and several national outlets pegging Matusz as a leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year.

Matusz has lost more games (12) in 27 outings for Baltimore than his entire collegiate career at the University of San Diego, where he lost just nine games in 45 starts (48 total outings.) Samuel said the Orioles hope the losing won’t have any damaging mental effects on Matusz in the long term.

“Well we are hoping that will not be the case,” Samuel said. “He’s a tough young guy, he’s got a lot of confidence.”
 

A true rebuild & Samuel's thoughts

ESPN.com’s Tim Kurkjian writes what most Orioles fans have been thinking most of the season: this could be the worst of 13 straight years of losing.

Last night Brian Matusz took the loss, his eighth of the year, and you have to wonder how long the Orioles will continue to flail about before a permanent successor to Dave Trembley is put in place. I don’t pretend to know when that will be. Heck, I don’t even know if Andy MacPhail knows. (He said yesterday it all depends on the process).

But I think we can all agree that at this point in the season it’s becoming damaging for these young guys to be marred in the losing culture that has swamped the Orioles.

My question is, how do you turn this around? Do you wait this season out, or do you make a move at the midseason mark and forget about the first 81 games? Do you get rid of everyone who isn’t a part of the Orioles’ future (ie. make a flurry of trades)?

******

I recently sat down with Juan Samuel for a little Q & A when I was in San Diego. It was going to be an off day story, but sometimes you have to let other news dictate what goes up. So, before this all gets stale, I wanted to share a few of his more interesting comments on what’s going on here and what he reasonably expects going forward…(Note: that this was done before Wednesday’s failed bunt attempt with Matt Wieters. So please spare me the emails about Samuel’s bunting strategy)

MLB.com: When you took over the team was already 15-39. How much of a challenge is it to managing a team that far in the hole, and how much can you, as a first-time manager feasibly expect to turn things around?
 
Samuel:  Honestly, I’ve taken the approach that anything that I can do to improve the attitude, to change the philosophy and mentality of some guys, is a plus for whoever might take over. Or whatever the decision might be.
 
To me, it’s a no- lose situation because we were already in the situation that we were in, and I’m using this as a learning experience. I’m enjoying it. I don’t think you know you can do something until you start doing it.  You see things that you could do and things that are working and you say, ‘Wait a minute, I think I can do this.’ But until you are put into this situation you aren’t sure how close you are.

That’s what I’m using this for. For me, its keeping those guys positive, continuing to push and encourage them and have them play a little better.

MLB.com: Given the Orioles injuries and lack of depth, you have a bench that’s short on big-league experience and productivity. Does it make you think twice to call on guys like Scott Moore, who is 1-for-19 with 10 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter, or Lou Montanez -who is batting .140 — in critical situations?

Samuel: Not at all. Because, to me, this is what I have. This is the right guy; a righty [pitcher] up there, Scotty is the left-handed guy we have right now. It’s not an easy job to come off the bench, but I’m going to do it.

Those guys are here. Yes, you’d rather have better choices, but this is what we have. And I’m going to use them in situations probably where they haven’t been used before. But I’m not afraid to throw guys out there. I’m really not.

MLB.com: With that being said, this team has yet to win a series since you took over. Have you seen any improvements, be it in the team’s fundamentals or the general attitude?

Samuel: One thing that I’ve noticed is we’ve been able to run a little bit, we’ve been able to sacrifice [bunt] a little bit.

I remind them, ‘Hey don’t just anticipate or think I’m not going to do certain things. Just be prepared because I do anything at any moment. Be looking for something. I always remind them, we need to stay the course, continue to do what we do and be ready to run. I’ve seen some of those things and some of those guys run the bases the way I think you should run it. [They do need] to take advantage of the mistakes; take the extra base a little more.

MLB.com: When you were named interim manager you talked about accountability and holding players responsible by calling them out. Has there been any of those situations with you as interim manager?

Samuel: Not yet. A lot of guys are passionate, a lot of guys are emotional. And sometimes when guys miss pitches down the middle, they show some passion, some frustration. And I played. I understand. But if you see certain things, repeating itself too much you have ways to get the message across.

MLB.com: President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has made it no secret that he values experience for the next Orioles manager. Given that this is your first shot at the helm, do you view this as a job interview, not just for the Orioles, but for the rest of baseball?

Samuel: Exactly. And if it doesn’t work out [in Baltimore] at least I know, ‘OK I could have done this differently. Next time I get a job I will do this’. You find out where things don’t work and you say ‘OK, I needed to do this’.

I got an opportunity from Andy to basically show to the folks out there to take notice, maybe a Latino player could manage. Because there’s not a whole lot of us
 

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It's Official: Jake tomorrow

The Orioles have confirmed that Jake Arrieta will start Thursday’s game against the Yankees. Jeremy Guthrie will slide back to Friday which leaves Brad Bergesen as the odd man out, at least for right now. Bergesen will remain in the bullpen and interim manager Juan Samuel said what they do with him will largely depend on what the team’s needs are the next few days.

Ditto goes for the roster move. The Orioles will need to make a move to get Arrieta on the 40-man roster prior to tomorrow night’s game. And yes, Guthrie is healthy. But the Os felt it was better to keep Arrieta on his schedule –he was due to pitch Thursday in Norfolk — and give Guthrie and Brian Matusz an extra day of rest. More to come on the site…

Greetings from New York

Greetings from the new Yankee Stadium!
The tarp’s on the field here at Yankee Stadium (just in time to catch a quick downpour) but I’m hoping the Yankees-Orioles game will start on time.

This is a big start for Brian Matusz, the talented lefty who has just looked off his last few starts. This is a place –and a lineup– where the game can get away from you in a hurry. The first inning will be crucial for Matusz tonight.

In case you missed it, I wrote yesterday about some hope for the future, namely Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. Two great kids with great futures in baseball.

Hughes' debut & other tidbits

Welcome to Fenway Park Day 2, where Brian Matusz will take the hill opposite John Lackey.

*Matusz has never faced the Red Sox and wanted to get a feel of what pitching at Fenway Park was like. So, he and Jeremy Guthrie used Thursday’s off day to go to the Red Sox game vs. the Texas Rangers. Dave Trembley said it best : he’s just a special kid.

*Tonight’s game will also be Rhyne Hughes’ Major League debut. Hughes got the nod last night and didn’t know he was in the starting lineup until he walked in to the visiting clubhouse around 4:30 p.m. ET.  The news broke thanks in part to his younger brother, Hoyt, who announced it on Rhyne’s Facebook fan page. 

*Hughes is playing first base tonight in place of Garrett Atkins, who has struggled as of late and twice left the bases loaded in Friday’s loss. Atkins said he’s not taking Hughes’ presence as anything other than a hot bat and a team who needs some offense. But it will be interesting to see what happens if Hughes starts to hit. Trembley said he will not consider Hughes in the outfield (he started to take reps out there at the team’s request this spring) so the only choice besides designated hitter is Hughes’ primary position at first base.

*Koji Uehara threw an inning today and will go to Double-A Bowie on a rehab assignment starting April 27. He will also throw on the 29th and there are no plans beyond that right now.


ORIOLES LINEUP
LOU MONTANEZ LF
ADAM JONES CF
NICK MARKAKIS RF
MIGUEL TEJADA 3B
MATT WIETERS C
LUKE SCOTT DH
TY WIGGINTON 2B
RHYNE HUGHES 1B
CESAR IZTURIS SS

BRIAN MATUSZ SP

RED SOX LINEUP
MARCO SCUTARO SS
DUSTIN PEDROIA 2B
VICTOR MARTINEZ DH
KEVIN YOUKILIS 1B
MIKE LOWELL 3B
JASON VARITEK C
BILL HALL RF
JEREMY HERMIDA LF
DARNELL MCDONALD CF

JOHN LACKEY SP

How good is Brian Matusz?

As I sit here in the pressbox watching Matusz carve up the A’s hitters, I wonder, how good is Brian Matusz?

This is a little premature,maybe, but this is how Matusz stacks up through the first 10 starts of his Major League career with the last five AL Cy Young Award winners and their first 10 games. 

 

W - L ERA IP H ER BB K
Matusz 6 - 2 4.58 57.0 60 29 20 53
Greinke 2 - 6 3.57 63.0 53 25 13 42
Lee 3 - 3 2.87 59.2 44 19 24 50
Sabathia 6 - 2 5.36 50.1 54 30 27 30
Santana 2 - 3 7.66 47.0 61 40 20 34
Colon 2 - 5 5.77 53.0 60 34 26 37

High Praise for Matusz

Here are some thoughts about Brian Matusz’s outing tonight, which was truly a delight to watch.  

Rays manager Joe Maddon

“This guy is going to be good for a long time. He has a lot of weapons he’s poised, he gets good hitters out, he gets good hitters out all of the time. “

Rays first baseman Carlos Pena

“It was tough today for us. This guy, Matusz, came out just nasty. He was throwing strikes with everything in the zone. He was locating. He was very tough on us.”

“You can’t deny that the outing was stupendous by him. I know it didn’t go his way in the last inning that he threw, but one through seven he was just lights out.”

Orioles infielder Ty Wigginton

“I made the comment in the dugout, he was really fun to play in the field behind. When a pitchers hitting his spots like he is, as he’s releasing the ball you are starting to lean away and they are actually hitting it in that direction. He was on top of his game and it’s shame we couldn’t bail him out.”

Orioles manager Dave Trembley

“Matusz pitched about as good a game as you’re going to get. [He] had location, had a feel for all his pitches, worked ahead, worked quick, pitched down. Tremendous game.”

Here’s Matusz on his outing:

“I felt comfortable out there today. I was able to just relax and throw a lot of strikes and work fast. The changeup was a great strikeout pitch for me, but I felt the other pitches help set that up. I threw some good curveballs and some nice sliders and was working in and out with the fastball really well.”

“I still felt good going out in that 8th. It was just a couple of hits that went through the hole. That’s going to happen with a good team like Tampa. They don’t give in. Even if things aren’t going their way, they don’t give in. You could see they were able to string a couple of hits together and, unfortunately for us, they put them together at the right time. I still felt strong in that last inning. Looking back on it, I’d probably like to throw some different pitches but I still felt good overall. I felt strong and didn’t give in. 

Gonzo: glad he got first save "out of the way"

Mike Gonzalez got his first save on Thursday night, just two
nights removed from Tuesday’s disappointing outing, which resulted in a blown
save and a loss. The Orioles new closer talked about getting the first save following
the Orioles’ 5-4 win over the Rays…

“That was a big thing now, just get the first one out of the
way,” Gonzalez said. “Now I can actually go and do me now.  Obviously [the excitement] it’s not good for
the Baltimore fans, I’m sorry about that. But I’m glad I got that one out of
the way.

Just how over-amped  is he?

“After that first outing [Tuesday] I had I think it’s just
over everything,” Gonzalez said.  “A new division,
a new team, trying to show too much, trying to show them that you do belong…obviously,
this is huge for me now I can go out and just start doing me.”

Gonzalez said getting Thursday’s wasn’t just  a sign of relief.

“The plane trip back [to Baltimore] is so much nicer. When you
go out there and something happens, they comeback, that’s just devastating for
the ballclub. Now we’re pumped up. One thing is for sure, we are going to be in
a lot of these games.  This season’s
going to be a lot of excitement. A l ot of these guys can hit and these games
are going to be really good. So, I’m excited for that.”

Gonzalez also had high praise for rookie starter Brian Matusz, who gutted out five solid
innings to collect the win in his 2010 debut.

“First of all, I love Brian,” Gonzalez said. “His stuff is
ridiculous, he’s got great electric stuff, but his mindset for a 23-year-old,
you don’t see that especially in the big leagues. Those guys are down in Double-A,
Triple-A trying to make it. He’s over here, he’s a mental bulldog. And I definitely
like the way he goes about his business.”

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