Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said the organization’s move to make Brian Matusz a reliever fills a temporary need and that the left-hander still has a promising future as a starter.
“It’s for now,” Duquette said. “It’s to address a need we have in the big league club we’ve been trying to address.”
Asked if he believes Matusz can still become a reliable major league starter, Duquette said, "Yes, I do."
Duquette said Matusz was told he’s moving to the bullpen Tuesday by Triple-A Norfolk manager Ron Johnson, and he was receptive to the move. Matusz was slated to start Thursday for Norfolk, but Dana Eveland is now scheduled to start that game. Duquette indicated Matusz will be used out of the bullpen starting tonight.
“We discussed it with him,” Duquette said. “For it to succeed, he’d have to be open to it. He’s open to it. He may get the call tonight. We’ll see how he does."
Matusz was sent down to Norfolk early last month after going 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 16 starts, but the Orioles believe he's established a resume of success getting left-handed hitters out, which could be best served in the bullpen.
Over the course of his major league career, Matusz has held left-handed hitters to a .233/.281/384 batting line and he posted a 4.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This season, he held major league lefties to a .174/.237/.302 line.
Once it became clear left-hander Troy Patton (sprained right ankle) was heading to the disabled list, the Orioles urgently re-acquired left hander J.C. Romero to serve as the sole lefty bullpen arm, so there's a serious need there.
“We’ve been considering it for a little while,” Duquette added. “We’ve been trying to see if we could add another left hander to our bullpen so we looked at some of our internal options too. Brian’s always had a good record of getting out lefties his whole career. He gets out lefties very, very well.”
Duquette didn’t put a timetable on how long it might take for Matusz to get adjusted to the bullpen.
“We’d like him to get some experience in the job and get comfortable with the warmup routine,” Duquette said. “It’s a different job. There are different physical requirements.
“He can control the running game,” Duquette added. “He’s in good shape. I think one of the keys is him wanting to do it. I think that’s a real key. “
In the meantime, Duquette said the organization is still looking at possibly adding players externally, but he added that getting right hander Jason Hammel (right knee surgery) next month would be as good as making an external addition.
“I don’t know,” he said. “There are usually players added between now and the end of the month, so we’ll keep looking. Hammel is throwing. He’s looking pretty good. If we can get him back, that would be the equivilent to adding a veteran starter. That would help the team.”