Orioles stretching out Matusz


Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter gave Brian Matusz the ball in last night’s 9-4 win over Minnesota in Ft. Myers, FL, and he didn’t disappoint. Matusz’s line: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K. No, your eyes didn’t deceive you; Matusz threw four innings of no-hit baseball, and came within one walk of throwing four perfect innings. Obviously in a real game four innings of no-hit baseball wouldn’t stand for too much, however as far as spring outings go this is about as good as anyone can get. Showalter said in the beginning of the off season that Matusz would go into Spring Training as a potential starter, even though he had finished last year as a match-up lefty in the ‘pen. That probably speaks to the depth in the bullpen more than anything else; however if last night is any indication, Matusz has a fighting chance.

Courtesy of Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most interesting parts of this Spring Training for me thus far has been the success that the Orioles have seemed to have on the road. Many regular players get the courtesy of not having to play in too many road games, and one of the unwritten rules is that the road team is supposed to bring (and start) at least four regular players. That means that in many cases we see a bit of drop off in most teams from home games vs. road games. That hasn’t been the case with the Orioles for the most part. Last night they went into the 9th trailing by one run, however a six-run inning quickly put a stop to that.

What that, along with acts such as Ryan Flaherty‘s walk off three-run homer last week against Toronto in Sarasota, shows us is that this Orioles’ organization has a lot of depth. I’m not talking wins and losses as much as I’m talking competitiveness in games. And if you do want to talk wins and losses for just one moment, the fact is that the regular players as well as the reserves are coming through in the clutch and helping the team win games. That was another mark of the 2012 version of the O’s, and if a few weeks worth of exhibition games are any indication, there’s no reason to think that 2013 will be any different.

One bit of lackluster news the Orioles received yesterday was that right fielder Nick Markakis is probably 2-3 weeks away from being 100%. I say lackluster news as opposed to bad because Markakis and the Orioles both feel that he’ll be ready for Opening Day. Last year Markakis only participated in about half of Spring Training after having abdominal surgery in January; he’s admittedly not the kind of guy that needs a lot of reps in the spring to get up to speed. However he could certainly be a candidate for start the year on the 15 day DL, or at extended Spring Training. This is where the above-mentioned depth comes into play. The Orioles appear very comfortable with Steve Pearce or Chris Dickerson in right field, so if push comes to shove they won’t have to scramble around finding someone to play there if Markakis can’t go.

This afternoon’s game in Sarasota against Tampa will be televised by MASN; this will be the third of six games that MASN will carry, the next one being this coming Sunday. In a bit of a surprise move, Buck Showalter named rookie Kevin Gausman the starter for today’s game. He’ll be followed to the mound by Dylan Bundy. I wouldn’t read anything into that in terms of Gausman (or Bundy) being serious candidates for the starting rotation. My personal opinion is that Showalter’s a pretty media savy guy, and that’s to be expected after working for ESPN. He’s well aware of the fact that today’s game is on TV, so why not give the home fans a look at the future? If you can sneak away from your desk at work for a few moments after 1 PM today, it’s definitely worth watching Gausman in his first unofficial big league start.