The Orioles are looking to upgrade their starting rotation this offseason, but regardless of whether they are able to do that externally, there will likely be some competition come springtime.
And left-hander Brian Matusz, who spent all of last season as a reliever, will be among those competing for a starting rotation spot, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said on Thursday night.
“I know how much it means to Brian Matusz to be a starter,” Showalter said. “We know that we’re going to go into spring giving Brian the opportunity to start.”
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Since the Orioles moved him to the bullpen in August, 2012, Matusz has been a solid situational left-handed reliever. Matusz was 2-1 with a 3.53 ERA last season, holding left-handed hitters to a .168 batting average.
Matusz also competed for the final rotation spot last spring, but Jake Arrieta ultimately won and Matusz returned to the bullpen.
Matusz, who turns 27 in February, has struggled as a starter over this career (5.51 ERA, compared to a 3.08 ERA as a reliever), but he’s made it clear that he see his future as a starter.
It's typically easier for pitchers to be stretched out as starters early in the year and then reduce their innings for bullpen jobs later in camp, as opposed to the opposite.
The Orioles still have left-handed reliever Troy Patton, and they've added lefty reliever Chris Jones to the 40-man roster and signed left-handed reliever Kelvin De La Cruz to a major league deal. But ultimately Matusz could still be the best situational lefty of the bunch.
It appears that Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez will have spots in the starting rotation going into the spring. Bud Norris also returns -- likely as a starter -- but the organization has toyed with the idea of him being a fallback option to replace Jim Johnson as closer.
So, barring additions to the mix, Matusz would likely compete against Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, T.J. McFarland and Kevin Gausman for a rotation spot.