By Kevin Cowherd
The Baltimore Sun
10:18 AM EDT, April 10, 2012
Everyone on the Orioles was pulling big-time for Brian Matusz last night at Camden Yards. Why wouldn't they? He's a good kid who struggled through a horrendous (1-9, 10.69 ERA) 2011 season. And the big lefty is being counted on heavily -- again -- this season as the Orioles try to avoid another year of being cannon fodder for the rest of the AL East.
But in his season debut last night against the powerful lineup of the New York Yankees, Matusz looked an awful lot like the Brian Matusz of last year.
He looked nervous, for one thing. Maybe you can blame this on first-outing jitters. Or the fact the Yankees have done so well against him in the past.
But he came out over-throwing, something MASN broadcaster Jim Palmer picked up on right away. As a result, he was leaving the ball up and getting behind in the count from the very beginning.
He threw a boatload of pitches (30) in the first inning, never seemed to get in rhythm and had trouble with his location all night.
Matusz told reporters after the game: "That's a tough lineup and [I was] just trying to be a little too fine with a lot of their big hitters rather than trusting my stuff and attacking the zone."
But I didn't see him nibbling at all.
I saw him trying to muscle up on his fastball and blow it past good hitters like Derek Jeter, Robbie Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Good luck with that strategy. And when it didn't work, Matusz's body language on the mound said it all. He was in trouble.
OK, it's only one outing. We assume he'll have other opportunities to turn things around, get the horrible taste of last year out of his mouth.
He's in great shape after an offseason of working with Brady Anderson. He says his arm has never felt better.
But what Matusz lacks -- still -- is confidence. And the only way you get that in the major leagues is by getting batters out -- consistently.
That's the big step he has to take.
And it has to be done real soon.
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