Tatum demoted; Matusz reaction: "Everyone's going to feel this one"
The Orioles did the difficult and expected move Sunday morning, optioning backup catcher Craig Tatum to the Triple-A Norfolk to make room for starting catcher Matt Wieters from the disabled list.
In the transactions, it looks like a clean swap: One catcher for another. In reality, it was a little more complicated. Because the bullpen has been taxed, the club couldn’t afford to lose a reliever. And with a short bench they needed as much flexibility as possible.
So Jake Fox, who can catch and play other positions and would have had to clear waivers before being demoted, was kept. And Tatum, who batted .271 and filled in admirably for Wieters, was sent down since he had an option remaining.
“You carry 13 pitchers, so I am the guy that gets to take the fall,” a visibly disappointed Tatum said. “It sucks, but what can you do? I understand why I’ve got to go down, but at the same time, you don’t understand.”
Tatum likely will be back as soon as a roster spot opens, and that could be this week if the Orioles make a trade. But president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said he couldn’t take that into consideration when making a move.
“You just can’t make promises, though, because you don’t know how these things are going to unfold,” MacPhail said. “But clearly, we made it clear to him that we really felt like he certainly played to the level that showed he was capable of handling the job that we asked him to handle.”
Unless there is an injury, Tatum must be down in Norfolk at least 10 days.
It certainly wasn’t a popular move in the clubhouse. The pitchers liked throwing to Tatum and his easygoing attitude quickly meshed with young players and veterans alike.
“He has done everything plus more. He has done everything expected to stay here and be here and that’s why it is tough,” said starter Brian Matusz. “I think everyone’s going to feel this one. It’s really unfortunate because he deserves to stay here.”
Said veteran Kevin Millwood: “It sucks. It sucks bad, because he made the team out of spring and I don’t think anyone expected him to make the team. And he has done nothing but overachieve since Day 1. He is probably the one guy on this team that has done more than what is expected of him. For him to be the guy to go down, it’s sad.”