By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:35 AM EDT, September 6, 2012
TORONTO -- Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz’s adjustment to his new role in the bullpen seems to be going smoothly.
The Orioles have used Matusz often recently. He made four appearances during the team’s six-game road trip, pitching in all three games against the Yankees in New York.
So as the Yankees and their lefty-heavy lineup come to Camden Yards for a huge four-game series, expect Matusz to play a key role in relief this weekend.
With Troy Patton, who spent most of the season as the Orioles’ sole left-handed reliever, injured with a sprained right ankle, the organization worked to convert Matusz into a reliever in Triple-A to help the Orioles through the stretch run. He’s always had good numbers against left-handed hitters. Since then, they’ve also added veteran left-hander Randy Wolf and recalled left-hander Zach Phillips to the bullpen.
But Matusz seems to be the most important left-handed pen arm. He’s been used in pivotal situational slots to get a key out and in multiple innings.
Over six relief appearances spanning five innings, Matusz has allowed just two hits and one run while striking out eight and walking one. He got two key outs – both on strikeouts – in the seventh inning of the Orioles’ 6-4 loss to Blue Jays Wednesday.
“He’s done a good job,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s not one of those ‘I told you so’ things. We knew this all along. You look at his numbers, major leagues and minor leagues, and you see he’s capable of it. I know he’s enjoying himself. He likes the idea of coming to the ballpark everyday and being engaged about having a chance to pitch ever day and help the club. I hope it continues. He’s gotten some good hitters out for us.”
Matusz said he’s still learning to get adjusted to the new role, but called the transition “pretty smooth.”
“I’ve been able to learn and be in the bullpen every day and kind of watch other guy’s routines as they get ready for their outings,” Matusz said. “I’m still feeling my way through finding out how many pitches I need to get loose so I’m ready to go out there and bring my best stuff. That’s something I’ve kind of been working with and observing with other guys and feeling out the other guys.
“I’ve had fresh innings where [I] had a whole half inning where I was able to pace myself and get ready and then the other night in New York, it was like, ‘Get ready right away, you’re facing the next lefty, so you’re facing [Robinson] Cano.’ I’m just kind of feeling my way and getting my experience, but once I get out there, it’s still the same game. You have to compete and get guys out.”
For Matusz, moving to the bullpen proved to be his best opportunity to get back to the majors after struggling as a starter. And while the organization still feels Matusz has promise as a rotation arm, he is enjoying playing a key role in the Orioles’ postseason push.
“We’re in a great spot right now,” Matusz said. “We’re making the playoff push. I’m enjoying my role and doing anything possible to help this team win. That’s the most important thing.”
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