Showalter says that plan remains for Matusz to stay in big leagues
The post-game conversation after the Orioles’ 10-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds tonight was predictably focused on one topic: the struggles of left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz.
Matusz allowed six earned runs on nine hits, including three homers, and one walk over 4 2/3 innings tonight, leaving his ERA after five starts to 6.85.
“I took a lot from this outing,” Matusz said. “Went out there with a game plan and made some good pitches. But I let their best guy in their lineup hurt me today. I can’t let that happen. My stuff has gotten better, a lot better. I had a good feel for the changeup today. I made some nice pitches, sometimes when I needed it. But I‘ll need to bear down better with their tough hitters.”
The hitter that Matusz was referring to was the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, Joey Votto, who went 3-for-3 with five RBIs in three at-bats against Matusz, connecting for a three-run homer in the third and a two-run shot in the fifth.
Matusz isn’t the first person to be victimized by Votto, but let’s be honest here: Matusz’s problems go well beyond those two at-bats tonight.
Over his last three starts, Matusz has allowed 14 earned runs on 20 hits, including four homers, and eight walks over 11 1/3 innings, good for a 15.88 ERA. He's given up seven home runs in his last 13 1/3 innings.
Out of his last five homers surrendered, four of them have come on fastballs clocked at 88 miles per hour or lower on the stadium radar gun.
“Well the velocity obviously isn’t there,” Matusz said. “Being in my fifth start, I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. But you just got to continue working and get a lot better. Not being able to pitch with 93, 94 like I have in the past, you got to be able to have a better plan and execute pitches better especially with their big hitters.”
Asked what has caused the drop in velocity, Matusz said, “It’s a matter of building arm strength.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was pretty hard on Matusz after one bad start earlier this season, but he defended him tonight, and said that the plan remains for him to make his next start.
““This is a 24, 25 year old young man that has had some success in just about everything he’s done pitching and finished up pretty good last year and he’s had a lot of challenges health-wise this year for the first time in his career,” Showalter said. “So, I try to keep that in mind. Obviously, it affects you physically, but sometimes mentally. He’s strong enough, he’ll fight through it and be better as a result of it.”
Pressed on whether Matusz will make his next start, Showalter said, “I don’t think that’s in the best interest to have the manager sitting in here an hour or so after his outing, throwing it out there, so I’m not going there. But I think we all know. There are different stages of a season, where you’re equipped to handle certain things, and I think Brian’s, at this point, best served… We’ll see what each day brings and what the options are, but last thing I want to do is start weighing on that when I’m sure Brian’s a little down about the outing tonight.”