Four spring training starts aren't a big enough sample size to declare Brian Matusz back on track in his quest to become the staff ace that the Orioles so desperately need, but fans have to like what they're seeing from the left-hander so far in 2012.
Matusz gave up three runs and six hits in two innings during his 2012 spring training debut March 5 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he rebounded nicely with eight scoreless innings over his next two appearances -- against the Philadelphia Phillies on March 10 and the Detroit Tigers on March 15.
The 25-year-old wasn't invincible during the Orioles' 4-1 loss Tuesday afternoon, but he still pitched effectively, holding the Phillies to one run and seven hits in five innings.
Most importantly, however, Eduardo A. Encina reported that Matusz's fastball was consistently in the low 90s.
That's where he needs to be in order to be effective. According to FanGraphs, his fastball velocity decreased from 91.5 miles per hour during his rookie season in 2009 to 89.9 in 2010 and 88.5 as he endured an injury-plagued season with a 1-9 record and 10.69 ERA last year.
There's a feature coming in this Sunday's Sun Magazine about former Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson's new role with the team -- as special assistant to the executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. He worked with Matusz and other current and former Orioles during the offseason in California.
At this early point in the year, the training seems to have helped Matusz regain his pre-2011 form.
I covered Matusz in several starts as he made stops in Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie on his way to the major leagues in 2009.
One thing that always impressed me during interviews with Matusz was his calm demeanor. He didn't face much adversity during his brief time in the minors, but I always felt like he had the mental makeup to deal with anything.
The Orioles and their fans hope Matusz can recover from a record-setting -- and not in a good way -- performance in 2011. To me, he looks like he's well on his way to becoming the staff anchor the Orioles envisioned when they drafted him in the first round in 2008.