Pitching in the minor leagues and still struggling to get hitters out, Brian Matusz, who was thought to be the Orioles' best starting pitcher entering the 2011 season, admitted to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that he wasn't mentally prepared at the start of spring training.
Down in Sarasota, the Orioles pitching brain trust of Mark Connor and Rick Adair -- Connor is no longer with the team -- tinkered with Matusz’s mechanics, and the pitcher said it negatively affected his confidence.
"Obviously, coming in not prepared is pretty clear to everyone," Matusz told The Baltimore Sun. "It wasn't necessarily that I wasn't physically prepared, but I wasn't mentally prepared. I was working with two pitching coaches that I didn't know, and they wanted to change things I've done for my whole life.”
After missing the first two months of the season with a strained left intercostal muscle, Matusz made six starts for the Orioles and his ERA skyrocketed to 8.77 before the team sent him to Norfolk in late June. He is 0-3 with a 4.83 ERA in six starts for the Triple-A Tides and his fastball reportedly remains in the mid-80s.
The good news is that it sounds like Matusz is taking responsibility for his struggles. He admitted he did not respond favorably to the changes he was asked to make by Connor and Adair (changes that Orioles manager Buck Showalter endorsed, by the way).
"Rick Adair and Mark Connor had great intentions of helping us young guys get better,” Matusz said. “That was the goal, that was the plan. Mentally, I wasn't prepared to make that happen. Right now, I'm trying to find myself, getting back to what has made me successful through my entire life."
Your turn: Who do you blame, if anyone, for his disastrous 2011 season? Do you think Matusz is committed to succeeding in the major leagues? And what does the immediate future -- let's say through 2012 -- hold for him post-attitude adjustment?