Baltimore Orioles recall Clevenger; Matusz appeal still pending


A word or two about catching.

The Baltimore Orioles today recalled backup catcher Steve Clevenger and designated Ryan Lavarnway for assignment. If you didn’t really know, that’s what DFA stands for. Lavarnway had hit .107 with no home runs or RBI in 10 games.

It’s the chicken-or-the-egg thing. The wisdom says he didn’t hit because he didn’t get enough at-bats, but that was because … he was the backup catcher. In 10 games, there aren’t many at-bats to be had, anyway. According to MASN, he’d been an NCAA batting champion and was a high-level Red Sox prospect once upon a time.

But Caleb Joseph passed him on the organizational chart at some point, and now has proven himself at the Major League level. Much is often made of the fact that the Orioles have an otherworldly record in games in which Joseph drives in a run. That somehow doesn’t jive with the idea that the team is still a game under .500, but that’s neither here nor there.

Clevenger had a slash line of .352/.413/.451 (32-for-91) with three doubles, two home runs and 14 RBIs in 27 games with Norfolk this season. Even though the point of his being in the minors was to work on his defense, if those numbers didn’t earn a player a promotion, nothing would, and it would send a very weird signal to every other player in the minor leagues.

The only problem I have is labeling it a move to improve the team’s offense. He indeed has far better numbers than Lavarnway. But replacing your backup catcher is a narrow context in which to improve the team’s offense, unless the Orioles plan to use him more than just on Sundays.

Joseph, though, was in a 1-for-19 slump as recently as last week, and has been rested eight times this season. The club would logically not want to replace a slump with a slump when he needs a rest. They would also want to guard against him breaking down in the future, even though when Matt Wieters comes back, the amount of playing time for both may be a play by ear situation.

With regard to Brian Matusz‘s suspension for having a foreign substance on his arm, there are pessimists who would say it is addition by subtraction, but manager Buck Showalter said Matusz is still the best left-on-left option in the bullpen. It is interesting that a relief specialist who sometimes doesn’t get lefties out was caught with a substance on his arm. Perhaps he needed a little help to get righties out as well. He managed to control his reaction after the ejection by saying he’d have more to say later.

He appealed the suspension and appeared in the very next game while the appeal was being ruled upon, so more bullpen help was not needed immediately. Stay tuned.

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