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August 1, 2009

Matusz: Why not?

matuszkapustinvertical.jpgThough the Orioles are understandably hesitant to rush top prospect Brian Matusz to the big leagues, there are plenty of compelling reasons why they are having a "vigorous debate" about calling him up to make at least a few August starts.

Most importantly, there is no downside from a service time standpoint, unless the club was planning on holding him back next year past the "Longoria deadline" to capture a seventh year, and teams generally do not do that with pitchers. Matusz (right) is on the 40-man major league roster, so he already has used his option for this year. He can come up and down without the club incurring any option penalty. The service time issue also is largely moot, because no matter how much time he spends up here this year, he's still under reserve for another six years.

There's also some value in taking some advantage of the loss of Brad Bergesen to get an early look at Matusz at the major league level, because the only other opportunity would come when rosters expand in September, at a time when the team should be rightfully concerned about him pitching too many innings in his first full pro season.

Matusz came up to Bowie and has been almost unhittable in his seven starts at Double-A. Scouts rave about him and most feel that he can hold his own at the major league level right now. He's got the right makeup and the right pitch repertoire to be competitive at any level, though he'd obviously face some growing pains against major league hitters.

The Orioles obviously are at least considering him -- along with Jake Arrieta and Troy Patton -- as the fill-in starter in Detroit next week. If Andy MacPhail takes that leap, which he wouldn't rule out in a couple of interviews on Friday, it would be a major change in the organizational timetable. But MacPhail admitted that circumstances sometimes force an unexpected decision.

Jeez, for a last-place team, the Orioles never seem to be short on intrigue.

Sun photo by Doug Kapustin

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 1:16 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Just baseball


Ok, I changed my mind. Bring him up and see what happens. That would make the next couple weeks much much more interesting from a fan standpoint.

I would not alter my schedule to see Pauley, Waters or Bass start a game. Matusz is another story.

What is the story with Uhera? When is he due back?

I think Matusz is supposed to pitch the first game of a doubleheader at New Britain today at 5:05pm. If he doesnt make that start or they keep him to an inning or two, we"ll know then that he is probably making the start on Tuesday.

I don't think there's any question that Matusz is ready from a performance standpoint for a Major League audition, and there are no roster considerations holding him back. It is likely to come down to workload management:
this is Matusz's first experience pitching every five days, and the O's may not want to push him all the way through the end of September. I discuss a bit more about workload for Bergesen, Tillman, Arrieta, and Matusz here...

I like it! He's old enough and if the scouts say he's ready, why not is right. He's the only one in the minors right now who's really earning it.

For what it's worth, I also think this would really make a lot of fans happy. Getting an early look at the future is a lot more exciting than watching guys mail it in again.

Also, you've gotta believe that bringing these guys up now is an almost no-pressure situation. If they don't pitch lights-out, it's understandable. But if the young guys get lucky, a positive or even break August and Septemeber ending to the season would mean a lot more to the fans if it came via the rooks rather than from veteran long-men like Bass or Hendrickson.

Pete, Based on what you know about Matusz do you think it's fair to say that his stuff is better than anyone now with the Orioles?

Mind you, I understand that there's a lot more that goes into making a quality pitcher than just that, such as command, poise, mound presence, etc., but strictly from the four plus pitches that he has, he already may be better than anyone the O's have. Is that overstating it?

Pete's reply: Not sure if I can answer that accurately, since everybody has a slightly different idea of what "stuff" means. If you're saying does he have the best combination of command, pitch repertoire, velocity and movement, I would say yes with the caveat that we're seeing that against Double-A hitters.

I don't see how he can do any worse than Tillman did in his first start.

Pete's reply: Tillman didn't do that bad, except maybe in relation to the Jim Palmer comparisons.

Reasons to bring Matusz up:

-Every scout says he's ready. Some scouts believe that Matusz is the best pitcher in the organization, even including the major leagues.

-He has major league-caliber stuff: four above-average pitches.

-He's worn out his welcome at Double-A and the O's may only need him for 2-3 weeks. Once Bergesen comes back, you can send him to AAA if you want and have him ready to be on the O's roster by Opening Day 2010

Reasons not to bring him up:

-What's the rush? The Orioles aren't going anywhere this year, so why take the risk that he gets shelled and his confidence gets hurt?

-It's not like they really NEED Matusz to come up. This isn't a situation like the Rays had last year when they called up David Price for an extra arm to have in the playoffs. Rushing a big-time prospect is simply window dressing for a last place team.

-Keeping Matusz on a specific timetable guards against the possibility of getting called up too soon and ending up being the next Adam Loewen or Matt Riley.

My verdict: call him up for just 2-4 starts initially. See where he is right now in his development and how far he has to go to being a reliable starter. If you want Matusz to get more seasoning once Bergesen comes back in mid-August, send Matusz down to Norfolk for the last three weeks of their season and try to get him ready for a possible rotation spot for Opening Day 2010.

If Matusz comes up and is too good to send back down to the minors, keep him with the O's and send down Berken to Norfolk to work on a few things. Actually getting a few wins could help his confidence (only having one win isn't entirely his fault, though, considering that his run support has been abysmal).

Pete, your thoughts?

No Way! Risk/Reward. What do you gain? At best a couple wins and a lot more data to judge his upside on. What else do you achieve if he does well?Compare that to the downside if he isnt successful. Potential damaged psyche. Ruins any good will that starting him got you with fans. 8 months of doom and gloom or told you so posts. Doesnt change your schedule for him next year. Open up AM to deserved criticism of rushing the plan because of know nothings fans clamoring for immediate gratification, even at the risk of destroying a vital asset.

How can you even consider it when there is so little to gain and so much to lose?

Pete's reply: Everybody's different. In this case, you're probably telling him he's filling in for Bergesen and getting a taste of the majors. Of course, if he pitches well, you drop Berken, but you probably still don't pitch Matusz every fifth day through September. I'm guessing three starts.

Some of us Os fans are excited about calling up Matusz today, but my questions are these:

• How would we feel when we see Matusz pitch a 2-4 inning bad start, give up HRs, get blown out, etc? It's fairly likely to happen, at this early stage, at some point vs. MLB hitters. Would it help or hurt Matusz's development to get lit up (i.e. learning experience vs. destroys morale)?

• Do we have the innings in the bullpen to cover Matusz's possible bad starts, esp. considering all the other young arms in the rotation who also need some support?

• Perhaps Matusz and Tillman will get the lion's share of cover from our longmen, but could it adversely expose the other young arms we hope will develop? Could that exposure open them up to a possible attrition-based injury down the line?

• Is promoting Matusz now for him, or for us?

I think all questions should be based around Matusz's development, not necessarily MLB needs. With most pitchers, esp ones under 25, the question of injury is not "if" but of "when" and "how bad." We've seen so many pitchers with promise flame out in Baltimore in the las 10 years. We've gotten to a point where fans feel snakebit. Why are we evening debating rollng the dice on developing those arms?

Too much of a gamble if you ask me. He should not be asked to face ML hitters B4 he has ever thrown a pitch at AAA. Patton was mowing down hitters in Bowie and has hit a bump at Norfolk, ditto Arrieta. AAA is filled with ex-ML players and the level is way above AA. This is just a dumb move if they do it....

Matusz's stuff and repetoire is supposed to be better than any other prospect in the system. I would personally agree. His curveball at that early age is impressive. It is a good hammer curve with a tight spin. It comes down with above-average force. He has a good above-average fastball with life with strong command. I would personally rate, say, Tillman's fastball movement ahead of his, but Matusz's control edges it out for me. What's the most impressive to me is that for a young pitcher, all 4 of his pitches are above-average with good control. What makes him standout is the changeup. A lot of young guys' big leagues projections are based on the fastball and breaking ball, with a 3rd pitch as a work in progress. With Matusz has those pretty developed. Some people will not call him a surefire #1 type pitcher because he doesn't have that one pitch that utterly dominates batters. That being said, he profiles as a very well-rounded pitcher who can change his pitch selection effectively when certain pitches aren't there in an outing.

AWESOME! Bring 'em up! There is no doubt in my mind that this guy has got 'it'. Anyone seen him pitch at Bowie? Lights out.
He'd be doing the same in AAA. Let him get his feet wet and then send him to AAA for the rest of the year. No September call up, that's my only advice for the O's. Not even remotely worth having him pitch a full season for a team that will finish in the bottom three in the bigs.

Why not is right. What do we, and Matusz for that matter, have to lose? Bring his a$# up, generate a little buzz in this town now that it's football season. Can you imagine if we play .500 ball between now and the end of the season, with Tillman, Matusz, Bergy and Hernandez as 4 of our starters.

Tuesday is a road game with the Tigers. That would be a tough beginning for a pitcher without AAA experience. Why not bring up Patton for the rest of the year. And move Matuz up to AAA. That way you would know Patton has made a full comeback.

who gives a crap...just throw Hendrickson or Bass out least we will still have hope in the winter.

what number will he be for the Orioles?

He's worn 17 and 27, which are both taken. any suggestions?

probably 11, figured it out, thanks

Organizations like to see how their pitching prospects do when faced with adversity. Matusz has not faced adversity at all in his minor league career, and the FO may feel like he wouldn't at Norfolk, either. That said, if he gets beat up a bit in two ML starts, it's not the end of the world and may do him some good.

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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