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July 21, 2011

One step forward, two steps back for Matusz; time change for Orioles' Sept. 1 game vs Jays (UPDATED)

So much for the good vibe surrounding Brian Matusz's seven shutout and three-hit innings in his previous start for Triple-A Norfolk.

Facing Toledo today, Matusz was knocked around for eight runs (seven earned), eight hits and three walks over just 3 2/3 innings. Nick Bierdbrodt allowed two of his inherited runners to score, but there is no making this outing look good. Matusz needed 85 pitches to get just 11 outs. I wasn't there, so I don't have any reports about his velocity, but I can't imagine he had much going on, if the numbers are any indication.

It hasn't been a good two days for a couple of the Orioles' younger pitchers on the farm. Norfolk right-hander Chris Tillman allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits and a walk over six innings against Toledo last night, leaving his ERA at 4.17. The hope was that he would go down there and fix some of his mechanical issues and force the Orioles to call him back up. He's clearly not doing that.

Then there's Double-A Bowie left-hander Zach Britton, who allowed two runs on two walks while striking out four over four innings yesterday. Britton obviously hasn't dominated in the two starts since his demotion, but he's still expected to be recalled July 30 to make the start against the New York Yankees.

In other news, the Orioles have moved the start time of their Sept. 1 game against the Toronto Blue Jays from 7:05 p.m. to 12:35 p.m. The move was made to minimize the level of inconvenience for Orioles fans and Baltimore Grand Prix planners.

(UPDATE: Right-hander Chorye Spoone (Northeast, CCBC-Catonsville), who was designated for assignment earlier this week, has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Double-A Bowie.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 2:57 PM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Minors


Could the O's please shut Matusz down? There is obviously something wrong!

I usually expect some initial demotion hangover from these guys, especially the younger ones. The hit of being demoted can be very humbling and discouraging, and it can affect performance. I wonder how much of that might be going on with at least Britton, since this might be the first time he's been sent backwards. Maybe Matusz too? Maybe not so much with Tillman. He should be used to it by now, more or less.

Jeff Z's reply: I agree Eddie. That's why I don't read too much into Britton's two outings. You obviously expected a little bit of a letdown. Plus, he knows he's coming back up later this month and his outings are only going to last three or four innings down there. It has to be hard to really zone in with all that in the back of his mind. Matusz and Tillman, and Bergesen for that matter, I think you have to be really concerned about.

All I can say is the Orioles must clean house in order to save this franchise.
Under the scouting & player development of 3 very constant names, this club has continued to spiral even further into the abyss of professional baseball.
We were all told by the usual characters affiliated with those departments that Matusz was the "next Cole Hammels". In reality, he looks more & more like Dorothy Hammel.
Tillman is simply Hayden Penn (remember him...another "future Hall of Famer), re-packaged with a twist...he's also devoid of the guts to pitch inside which, at least Penn would do. Then again, with a blazing 86 mph. fastball, I guess I can understand his preference for nibbling away, away, away.
Fourteen years of TOP picks & this is what we get Andy???
What are you actually seeing that even allows Jordan & Stockskill to still get a paycheck?
Our entire organization from the bigs to low minors has 1 projected middle infielder. No outfielders, no catchers & no pitchers. How in God's name do any of you still have jobs?
After the Flanagan experiment I never thought I'd see my beloved Orioles fall this far but, here we are. Four years later we are worse now than ever before, no talent anywhere to be found that is home grown & a Front Office so top heavy in underachievment & incompetence it makes me physially ill.
Throw us a bone least acknowledge these guys, under your watch, have failed miserably & relieve them of all duties now.
This organization is a mess, it's a systemic failure, it's a laughable joke to other executives and action, even action of little consequence on the immediate front must be taken for the long term health of this program.
Are you a leader Andy or an ostrich?

Jeff i know you have heard the saying things can't get any worse, but you bet your a$$ they can and they will. And while we are feeling sorry for ourseleves there is another saying that goes something like this you make your own breaks when you do the right things and we don't do anything right. .Jeff this organization is damaged from top to bottom and until andy resigns and peter sells this team it will never get on track.Buck has to be crazy for taking this job, he was sold a bill of goods just like the fans were. It's down right insane what has happened to these pitchers.Andy put the entire success and failure of this organization on the shoulders of these young unproven pitchers and now they are all broken down both mentally and physically.It's not even worth talking or getting upset anymore. It's just a real shame .

It's rare to see a player regress like this. And two in one year! The curse of Angelos is still alive.

Question !!!!! Will there ever come a time , when we hear good news about our team ? It's time the kids start doing what thier supposed to do . They can't all be bad , can they ? We were so excited about them . What happen't

Curt S.S. Md

I watched the Tillman start yesterday (on and he had a rough first inning, no excuses. But after that he really settled down, and the fact the had a rough inning and worked through it not letting it get out of hand AND came back and pitched well the rest of the way really gave me a bit of hope.

Look, you can't give up 6 hits and 4 runs in the first, but at least he pitched the next 5 innings giving up only 4 base runners....

I'm grasping for any positive I can find...

Hi Jeff,

The Orioles are now 9 games out of fourth place. Toronto now has a winning record. After three games home against the Angels, the Orioles close out the month with 7 games on the road against the Blue Jays and the Yankees. I think what has already gotten ugly is going to get uglier.

There are some teams looking for starting pitching to make a playoff run, including the Pirates. If the Orioles trade Guthrie, and I think they should, who would be our most likely trade partner to get something of value back? Do the Pirates have any prospects that might help upgrade our farm system? It is ironic that the Pirates are looking to add and the Orioles should be selling.

Why expect anything more from this organization?? We dumped vets mid-season for the past 12-15 yrs with NOTHING to show for it (NOT one current player or top prospect has come via these trades). By dumping salary mid-season we rarely get a compensatory draft pick (TB had 10 this year). We opt out of the Interenational signing while even small market teams belly up. We get nothing in the amateur draft after the 1st round (even screwing that up every 3rd or 4th year ie. Rowell & Hobgood). Now we hear from Jorden that we'll likely only sign half our picks since we've dropped 2 teams. So why would anyone expect us ever to challenge in AL East. All 4 teams are widening the gap - TB for example has better young players @major league level, have 2nd rated minor league organization (we're 21st) by Baseball America then they get 10 of the top 60 players in amateur draft versus our one. Toronto is much the same. There is NO reason to expect us to ever pass tB & Toronto mcuh less NY & Boston!! It's really sad - there is NO light @end of the tunnel.


Maybe you have answered this before, but I was curious why Britton was sent to Bowie from the O's to work on things and not to Norfolk? Thanks

Jeff Z's reply: The reason they gave was it would keep Britton close in case they needed him on a moment's notice, and it would allow him to work with Kennie Steenstra, the pitching coach for much of his pro career.

Don, one correction on your well deserved critique of the O's: Adam Jones came here when they traded Bedard to Seattle. You're right on the money about everything else, though. The farm system is almost devoid of major league talent. Like so many others, I also don't understand how the top people in the scouting department still have a job.

As far as free agency and trades, other than Hardy who was a good signing, all they did was take chances on guys who are at the end of their careers, or marginal players with big holes in their games. Instead of investing in real, lasting improvement, they were hoping for a (relatively) cheap miracle, and as usual, they didn't get one. What a shock. After all these years of futility and frustration, this team is almost impossible to watch, even on TV.

When are we ever going to accept the fact that Angelos measures success in profits and not wins? Baseball economics as they are today do not always mean wins=profits. In fact, the highly profitable teams are the ones found at the top AND bottom of the standings. That being the case, Angelos and his crew see no need to invest in the team since it would require a HUGE commitment to get to the top of the division; rather, it is better to sit back and cash the MLB and MASN checks while not spending a dime.

Oh, and by the way, I doubt he gets too upset when Yankees and Sox fans pile into the stadium when they visit. They all need a place to stay and Peter the Great has a wonderful hotel behind left field where they can all rent his rooms.

Face it Baltimore--this is as good as it is going to get.

Weren't Matusz and Tillman both working with the same strength and conditioning coach over the winter? Both have seen their velocity drop this year. Do we know of any other clients of those trainers who experienced similar losses of strength recently? Seems like there could be something more to this.

Jeff Z's reply: Yes, they did. But that's over-simplifying things things in my book because both their velocity was down last year, too. It's not a good trend.


He has to be injured. There is no other reason you lose the velocity he has lost in such a short amount of time.

The only other possible reason is he has completely lost whatever muscle mass he had. I guess I can totally see this organization allowing that to happen.

Tillman never impressed me. You can't walk that many people and be good. Britton needs to be pitching in the bigs.

I think TommyBob nailed it. Profits. This is a fundamental problem with MLB. For more teams to be realistically competative, revenues have to be more equally distributed. Failing that, which I don't expect to happend, we should just get honest and split the teams into a new level of leagues. Boston, Philly, NY, LA, Chic, and DFW should be separated from the rest. Let their champion play the next best team. It could be a AAA team, a Japanese team, Cuban National Team, or the Dominican Team. This way MLB would be gauranteed top ratings for the WS regardless of which of those nine teams plays in it. Yeah, I know it is KRA-ZEEE!

Not much to add here that hasn't already been said. Just to repeat the words of the immortal Casey Stengel: "Can't anyone here play this game?!"

Loewen, Hobgood, Matusz. Grow the arms? That's about the most stupid strategy a ML GM could promote and I am darn tired of hearing it!. And, it's been proven over and over again to be highly risky. I had an uncle (1st round draftee) who blew out his arm in AAA. It happens over and over again. The smarter idea is to grow the bats (less likely to break down) and buy the arms but all the so called experts would rather roll the dice and eat the garbage spewed therefrom.

James, Jeff responded to my question regarding the "coincidence" that Matusz and Tillman and Hobgood all worked out together and all have lost velocity.

What I'd like to know from people who have seen Brian and are familiar with him is whether he has dropped a significant amount of weight over the past year. It just looked to me he was wasting away when I saw him on MASN the last time he was in a Baltimore jersey.

Jeff, am I crazy or has Matusz physically regressed?

Jeff Z's reply: No, you're not crazy at all. He clearly lost lost some weight. And I'll say this, I think the team's strength and conditioning staff is going to be closely monitoring Brian Matusz's workout regiment this coming offseason.

JEFF Tillman does not surprise me at all. He has shown this kind of inconsistency ever since his velocity went down and even before.. He was promoted by his status not by dominating AAA TO earn the promotion. I suspect both of them to not have the right conditioning programs for pitchers... IT probably won't happen but I wish we would hire a top pitcher to help set up our pitching workout programs especially over the offseason.. I didn't mention BRITTON because I still believe in him although I think a fatigue factor could still be affecting him during this summer heat. MAYBE we better watch his conditioning closely over the offseason.. LASTLY I can accept our season rebuilding this year with the improvement represented by Britton, Reynolds, and HARDY but I will be devastated if we lose BUNDY...

Millwood was around last year for all the young guys and they seemed to talk to him often. They need Jim Palmer to work with all of the young guys.

It appears that McFail is going to bail at the end of the season, so I don't expect him to put too much effort into revamping the team via trades over the next 5 weeks or so. McFail is just putting in time now as he's checked out.

After 4 years of "grow the arms and buy the bats", I think we may actually be in worse shape. At least 3-4 years ago we had some hope with young minor leaguers like Wieters, Tillman, Matusz and Arrieta and a developing Loewen. Now we see the young arms have not grown and even regressed. Tillman and Matusz have mysteriously lost their fastballs. Loewen's arm fell off. Arrieta appears he might be damaged goods. And Wieters is a good catcher, but certainly not the second coming of Johnny Bench.

McFail has failed. I wonder if Angelos recycles Flanagan as GM or goes to the outside? Or will it be Buck? Whoever it is, will the Stockstills and Jordan be back?

But until Angelos sells, it won't matter anyway who is GM as he either does not have the energy or the commitment to improve the organization.

I would root for the Nationals, but Angelos makes money off them through MASN so I am just adrift in baseball rooting.


Having watched the Orioles closely this season, what do you think is(are) the main problem(s) with the young hurlers:

* injuries?

* poor mechanics?

* over-hyped?

* being rushed to the big leagues too quickly / thrown into the AL East cauldron?

* confusion from having three pitching coaches in the span of less than a year (not to mention others in the minors)?

...and/or perhaps something else?

Jeff Z's reply: Hate to take the easy way out Ken, but probably all of the above, in addition to the fact that a couple of them have probably been over-evaluated, and totally lost their confidence after some struggles.

not sure if anyone paid attention to Matt Albers the other night, but his stuff looked great. Speaking to that, Jim Palmer commented that Albers found the right arm angle. This leaves me to wonder 3 things and I curious about your thoughts. 1) Why didn't he find the right arm angle with the orioles? 2) Is the problem with the orioles young players and prospects the scouts or the coaching? Its one or the the other and something needs to change...

What's wrong with keeping the good arms ( Guthrie, Koji) instead of talking trading them and buying a couple good arms that can give you 7 - 8 innings? Also, I don't hear much about the pitching coach change this year and the development in the minors being evaluated?

I am usually an optimistic fan, but this news is downright depressing to the core.

I agree with the second or third comment: How is it that these scouts still have jobs?

The Red Sox rolled into town this week battered, heavily, mind you. And they had yet ANOTHER you guy (Reddick) play really well. The announcers on the radio made a comment about him... something along the lines of "Reddick is just another baseball gamer, much in the mold of Pedroia and Ellsbury." As hard as that is to hear (especially because the Sox are loaded with talent both bought and developed), I had the same thought as that poster I referenced above:

How is it, that we have been bad for THIS LONG.... being hand fed top picks as bonuses for being terrible... and we don't have an organization FULL of gamers.

It's really quite pitiful.

When I think of the Orioles' scouting and player development crew, I think of a bunch of over-weight guys traveling from Hotel 8's to Econo Lodges, wearing flowery Hawaiian shirts, white powder from powder donuts on their face, laptops from 1996, giggling as they are driving to no-wheres-ville Alaska to watch Jimmy the 8-year-old pitching phenom in the Seward tee-ball league, while just about every other team is somewhere in Texas drooling over the next starting shortstop of the New York Yankees or St. Louis Cardnials.

It makes me SICK.


The Orioles are a failed and flawed franchise from ownership on down. They are downsizing as an organization and closing down farm teams. They are the only major league team that does not scout the Caribbean because Angelos won't spend the money. Heck, they went years without having a real GM and then hired one off the scrap heap. The franchise is a prime candidate for elimination when MLB contracts, The Baltimore Orioles, as we once knew them, are history, and all that is left is to turn out the lights.

I think the "strength and conditioning" staff needs monitoring.

2 words:


Angelos et al, ...........just remember....what goes around COMES around.

Yeah it's hard to value minor league starts when coaching/management may have the pitcher work on a specific part of his game. They may have had Matusz change his mechanics to try to help with his velocity to poor results. However I think we're gonna be looking to next year to see if Matusz can turn things around.

Call me crazy but I agree......The Curse of Angelos is still alive!! Im starting to believe it will end when he's done with this organization. I hope that day comes!

Angelo$ = Diablo.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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