Baltimore Orioles: Who Replaces Brian Matusz?


The Orioles have a plethora of options to replace Brian Matusz in the bullpen and on the payroll.

It’s always hard to lose someone who was a part of two magical teams. Such is the case with Brian Matusz, who might not have lived up to his hype, but was still an important member of the 2012 and 2014 Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles likely do not win the 2012 Wild Card game without Matusz striking out Josh Hamilton in the eighth inning or without him dominating left handed hitters in September. However, all good things must come to an end. 

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After trading Brian Matusz to the Braves, the Orioles now must replace Matusz in two ways. Firstly, they must replace him in the bullpen. Short-term, the Orioles have officially called up left handed pitcher Ashur Tolliver, a fifth round pick of the 2009 MLB Draft. He’s a pretty awesome story, overcoming a lot of things that would make most people give up on their dream to potentially achieve his dream of pitching in the majors. Tolliver has found his niche in the bullpen as a lefty specialist. Ironically, he kind of followed the Brian Matusz pathway to being a reliever as he was a failed starter.

Long-term, the Orioles have options. Chris Lee, who the Orioles traded for last season, is an option. The Orioles would prefer not to use him in relief since they like him as a starter, but he is an option nontheless. Zach Phillips, who pitched for the Orioles for a spell back in 2011, is another option. T.J. McFarland is another option, though his experience as a middle reliever is limited. 

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The best in-house replacement for Brian Matusz is most likely Brian Duensing. Duensing, just like Brian Matusz, is a failed starter. He has experience as a relief pitcher with 293 relief appearances and has put up a respectable ERA during his time in the bullpen. The primary downside with Duensing is that he doesn’t strike a lot of guys out.

While striking guys out is hardly a requirement to be an effective pitcher for the Orioles thanks to their great defense, Duensing has never been much of a ground ball pitcher.  Pitching to contact is fine if you allow a ton of ground balls. Ground balls tend to do far less damage than line drives and fly balls. Duensing has only had a ground ball rate of over 50% in two of his seasons.

The best replacement for him might not even be on the roster. Until the Orioles find a capable lefty specialist replacement for Brian Matusz, they should be searching waivers far and wide. Give lots of lefties a chance in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle. Especially since giving up a highly thought of prospect is most likely not an option.

Next: Thoughts on Matusz Trade

Baltimore most also replace Matusz on the payroll. Last season, the Orioles traded Ryan Webb to the Dodgers to clear Webb’s salary off the payroll. They used the added space to absorb Gerardo Parra‘s salary in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. That didn’t pan out as expected. Giving up a competitive balance pick to clear salary isn’t ideal, but it’s not the worst thing in the world by itself. It’s only horrible if you don’t do anything with that money you’re saving. The Orioles must be sure to make use of Matusz’s saved salary.