Results tagged ‘ Brian Matusz ’
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Brian Matusz showcased an impressive arsenal in his Grapefruit League debut Thursday afternoon, as the young Orioles lefty opened his first Spring Training contest with three straight strikeouts against the Rays.
Matusz struck out Tampa Bay leadoff hitter Gape Kapler on an offspeed pitch, then proceeded to blow a fastball by All-Star Carl Crawford, who was late on the heater and went down swinging. Matusz’s economical inning went wayward, but he won a 13-pitch battle with Evan Longoria, sending the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year back to the dugout for his third strikeout.
“[Catcher] Craig Tatum was telling me afterwards, Longoria was saying, “I’m trying to put it in play, I’m really trying to put it in play,” Matusz said.
“It was fun. It was a good battle and I know my pitch count got up but I look at it, I think I threw a lot of strikes. My strike percentage was really high. I didn’t walk a guy, went deep in a couple counts, but it was all foul balls and things of that short.”
Following a 22-pitch first, Matusz allowed his first baserunner in the second when Carlos Pena reached on an error by second baseman Blake Davis. Matusz struck out designated hitter Pat Burrell before allowing a full-count homer to Sean Rodriguez, a former Angels prospect acquired in last year’s trade for Scott Kazmir.
Rodriguez’s drive, aided by the strong breeze at Charlotte Sports Park, sailed over the right-field fence for a two-run shot and spelled the end of Matusz’s day.
“Initially I thought it was going to be a fly ball to right field,” Matusz said of the homer. “But with 20 mile an hour winds howling to right field, there’s always a chance if you get it up in that jet steam, it’ll take it out.”
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley had said earlier that the regular starters’ first go-around this spring will be around two innings, or 35 pitches. Matusz threw 36 pitches, 28 for strikes and was pleased with his ability to command his fastball.
“I didn’t go off my gameplan at all,” he said. “Even with that at-bat with Longoria, where it was long, kept fouling pitches off, I still continued to go in hard with fastballs and I did what I wanted to do.”
Matusz estimated he threw about five or six change-ups but did not throw any curveballs. He acknowledged that he knew about his high pitch count and if the Longoria at-bat was during a regular season game, he might have changed his approach.
Just 23, Matusz is projected to be part of an O’s rotation that includes Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen.
The fourth overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Matusz dominated through two levels of the Minors last year, going a combined 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA. After a few bumpy starts following his inaugural callup in August, Matusz settled in, going 4-0 with a 3.73 ERA over his last five outings.
On Jeremy Guthrie’s two-inning scoreless debut:
“He did [keep the ball down], threw a couple good change-ups back to back. Pitched down, his delivery was clean. Nice start for Jeremy. Very nice start.”
On what stood out in the first game:
“What I liked today was the lefty against lefty matchups. Nicky [Markakis]. Hughes, Moore. That was a good, real good. Nicky looked like he was in midseason form.
Trembley has previously said he was impressed with infielder Rhyne Hughes’ power, which is partially why the team is trying to get Hughes reps in at various positions. Hughes homered twice, along with Josh Bell.
“It’s a very nice way to start,” Trembley said of the team’s 12-2 win over the Rays. “Guys have worked real hard for a solid 10 days. Today is a good day for the team because you could spread it around. Obviously, the guys who had some great individual performances deserve a lot of accolades, but the team deserves credit.”
“It’s a good day for the team, it’s a good day for the Orioles. It’s awfully nice for Sarasota. And I won’t kid anybody, it’s a nice way to get it started. You think about it all winter and you can’t wait to get it started.”
In case you missed it Brian Matusz takes the hill for Thursday’s game in Port Charlotte.
It rained all night, although the sun is coming through now, so the Orioles workout could be limited depending on field conditions.
Manager Dave Trembley might limit what kind of work gets done today, in preparation for Jeremy Guthrie’s start against the Rays right here at Ed Smith Stadium tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is at 1:05 p.m. and the Orioles will face James Shields, with starter Matt Garza also expected to throw.
Brian Matusz will make his Grapefruit League debut Thursday against Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann.
The clubhouse was pretty quiet this morning which was to be expected. Not only is it the last day of practice before the games, but most of the team went to a party thrown for them by ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who lives in nearby Bradenton.
Stay tuned for updates.
So, today when I looked outside my window and saw the sun, I thought “Nice, what a great day it will be in Sarasota.” What I did not plan for, was the whipping winds and 50 degree temps that would make my tank top and cardigan choice a source of mockery from the other reporters, players and coaches. After roughing it and watching practice for two plus hours, I booked it into the locker room at the instant we were allowed in. Normally, I like to wait for all the guys to come off the field. But today, I couldn’t feel my fingers. And we all know how much I need those to write, blog and Twitter.
Anyways, while waiting for manager Dave Trembley to talk to the media in the warmth of his office, I started talking to Brian Matusz. It turned into a fun little Q & A, which I transcribed for you below. Enjoy. At my own foolish expense of course. And keep in mind that Matusz mentions the wind and cold weather- just in case you thought I was being a baby.
(Also, if you were curious, the only player who offered to get me a coat was OF Lou Montanez. I think it’s safe to say he is now my favorite Oriole.)
Me: I could use a good story. Got any good stories?
Matusz: [thinks for a second] I don’t really have any stories right now.
Me: Nothing good? How’s Spring Training going?
Matusz: Spring Training’s great. You want me to talk about that?
Me: Yes, please. Anything, really. I’m bored and need a story.
Matusz: [now in full interview mode] Spring Training’s been great, it’s a great group of guys we have. We all get along. We go out there and take care of business but at the same time, we are joking around with each other and having a good time out there. It was a little bit windy today, pretty cold out there, but everything seems to be going really well.
Me: How is this different from last year’s Spring Training for you?
Matusz: For me, it’s a lot different. Last year was my first Spring Training, I came in, I was really nervous, I didn’t really know anyone. Maybe just a couple guys on the team. This year I know everyone pretty well. Even with the new guys [Mike] Gonzalez, Kevin [Millwood], just great guys. Every day Gonzo always has something to say, something positive. I know that a lot of these guys are really excited about this season because of the talent we have and some of the veteran leadership and everything. It’s a good mix of guys and Gonzalez is an awesome guy. You can just tell he’s real intense and real pumped up about this year. He expects some good things out of a lot of us, and it’s a real motivation booster when you have veteran teammates like that behind you, really pumping you up and getting you excited.
Me: Has Millwood shared some of his wisdom and old baseball stories with you guys yet?
Matusz: Not yet. Kevin’s, I think, trying to get to know us a little bit better. Luckily, Chris Tillman and I have the chance to play catch with him and goof around. He keeps things real loose. You can tell he’s out there working real hard, he just has a good personality. Nice, funny personality, he’s just enjoying himself. He’s one of those guys who is just talking to everyone.
Me: You and Tillman are really close. How did that come about?
Matusz: People joke around about Chris and I being so close. We are always doing things together. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we live together in Spring Training [this year]. We got a condo together, and we come to and from the field together. We didn’t meet until last year in Spring Training and than just right away we started hanging out, becoming good friends. We are both from similar [areas], I’m from Arizona he’s from California, but I went to school in San Diego [at the University of San Diego], so we know a lot of the same people that we played ball together with.
[We're] just similar personalities, and we both got called up to the big leagues around the same time, so we’ve been able to hang out with each other a bunch and kind of work our way up together. It’s nice having someone there who is in the same situation as me, being young and being put in the spotlight around the same time. So, we kind of learn from each other and work together to learn the unwritten rules and things like that. Chris is a great guy.
Me: Does it help having know Matt Wieters from the minors as well? I know that’s a special relationship pitcher to catcher.
Matusz: Yeah, sure. Matt and I played in the Arizona Fall League together (in 2008), that was my first experience of professional baseball and he was my catcher and we were able to work together and learn about each other a lot. And I feel like it really helped out going into last season when I got brought up to the big leagues. We were both really familiar with each other and I think that really helped out. I know Matt’s a young guy like myself, but he really is a leader out there. He really knows his role and is really helpful and we get along really well, so to have that chemistry between pitcher and catcher is really special.
Me: So you went to school in San Diego. Are excited for the trip out there this year? You guys play them this year.
Matusz: We do. That’s on the schedule; I think it’s the middle of June. I definitely looked at that, told a lot of my friends, coaches back in San Diego. Right now, my focus is on the spring and getting ready, but hopefully I will have the opportunity to pitch in San Diego in front of a big group of family and friends.
Me: I know a lot of guys don’t set individual goals. But is there anything you are focused on this spring you want to carry over into the rest of the year?
Matusz: One big goal for myself is to stay healthy and to pitch throughout the entire season. Last year I got shut down early at the end of the year because of my innings mark, it was already planned ahead. But this year, my goal is to stay healthy, stay strong and prove that I can go past that mark and stay healthy all the way through it. That’s my main goal.
Me: This was great. Anything else you want to add?
Matusz: No, not really. I hope it gets warm soon, so I can go to the beach. Go check out Siesta Key.
You hear that weather gods? Brian Matusz wants to go to the beach. And so do I. So make it happen.
Quick note on this morning’s workout, it’s cloudy and overcast, but I will do my best to get more pictures up via Twitter. But by forewarned, there’s some pretty tedious pitchers fielding practice and bunt plays on the agenda for today.
Baseball Prospectus has been putting up their predictions for each division, which mostly relies on the use of PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm). It’s basically a sabermetric system for forecasting Major League Baseball player performance. BP combines each player’s performance with projected playing-time forecasts to project the standings.
You can find the whole story here, but here’s the bit that concerns the O’s…
Projected record: 79-83 (4th in the AL East)
Why They Might Win: In any other division, the Orioles would probably be a contender. Although this probably isn’t the year they put it all together, they are tantalizingly close to a return to respectability. They are projected to score 781 runs–fifth in the AL, but fourth in the East. The outfield of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold might be the best in the division. Starters Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman could have breakouts in their first full major-league seasons.
Why They Might Not Win: Their starting pitching is not yet where it needs to be. Kevin Millwood isn’t as good as his ERA made him seem last year, so PECOTA projects Brad Bergesen to be the Orioles’ starter with the lowest ERA at 4.40. This is not a formula for success.
Player Who Could Surprise: Jones started last year strong (.303/.357/.481 before the All-Star break), but cooled in the second half. PECOTA thinks he can do it all season this year, pegging him for .294/.350/.501. Even more noteworthy is his high “Breakout” score, which suggests a good probability that his production will improve by at least 20 percent over his established level of performance.
Player Who Could Disappoint: Millwood, despite a superficially strong ERA last season, has lost the ability to strike out batters at a high rate. PECOTA sees the writing on the wall and projects him for a pedestrian 4.71 ERA and just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
So what do you think?
Also, I’m hoping to get enough queries to turn out my first Orioles inbox soon, so get those questions coming via email, with your name and location.
With physicals out of the way, the Orioles got out and on the field on time today. As usual, Millwood was one of the first ones out and ready to go. I spoke with him yesterday for the first time and he struck me as a little quiet, but a nice guy. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he’s been really impressed by the veteran’s work habits, a fact that really sets the tone for the young guys who are in their first few camps.
“The results aren’t always words as they are his actions,” Kranitz said about Millwood. “He’s always the first one doing something. Always. Whether it be the first one in the clubhouse or the first one doing drills. Let the young guys see that and follow.”
As I mentioned in my feature story that will be up on the site later, Millwood’s locker is in between Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman, with Brad Bergesen on the other side of Tillman. That’s not an accident, as Dave Trembley and Kranitz have made it pretty clear what’s expected of Millwood. And Millwood, who did the same sort of thing last year in Texas, has accepted that role, he’s been chatting with Bergesen and the younger guys and he threw his first bullpen to Wieters yesterday.
Millwood on his initial impressions of the clubhouse.
“A lot younger than me. But, a lot of good guys and seems like there’s a lot of talent here. So it’s pretty exciting to be a part of maybe helping mold these guys a little bit and help them all on their way.”
Trembley said Millwood’s presence will help take the pressure off the younger pitchers and allow them to “be themselves.”
“They don’t have to try to be something other than what they are,” Trembley said. “I think that’s the biggest tendency that happens with players at the big league level. They think more is better and they put their foot to the pedal.”
*Trembley had rave reviews for some of the guys who threw today, including Kam Mickolio, who he believes will eventually be a back of the bullpen guy. But not this year obviously, with Mike Gonzalez occupying the closer spot. When I talked to Trembley on Tuesday, he had mentioned Mickolio as one of the guys he was really excited to see. When I told Kam that he seemed pretty pleased.
“It means a lot when another coach, especially the head coach or the manager says they are excited to see you throw,” he said. “It’s always a good feeling they got a close eye on you.”
Mickolio has been down in Sarasota throwing for over two weeks, and said on Tuesday he had thrown about 10 bulllpens. So today’s session would make 11.
*Koji Uehara was another guy who impressed, with Kranitz raving about the late movement on the right-hander’s ball.
“I was real pleased,” said Kranitz. “It was night and day from today to when he threw in Boston back in September.”
*Other notables mentioned in today’s workout were Jake Arrieta and Alfredo Simon, who is less than a year removed from Tommy John’s surgery.
“[It's] to his credit,” Trembley said of Simon. “He must have worked real hard to get to where he’s at.”
*Adam Jones, Felix Pie, Justin Turner and Blake Davis were a few of the position players who have been working out and taking batting practice before the full squad workouts start Feb. 23.
If you’re curious, the above photo is a back shot of Nick Markakis, who was barely recognizable with a full length beard and the noted, umm, interesting attire. He brought his son to watch some of the workout.