By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:51 AM EDT, April 10, 2012
Now that Orioles fans have had some time to digest left-hander Brian Matusz's 2012 debut, let's really take a look at the pluses and minuses of his outing against the Yankees, a 6-2 loss, on Monday night.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter and catcher Matt Wieters both said emphatically that Matusz is leaps and bounds better than what he was last year.
Matusz's velocity was there. He was mostly in the 91-92 range, the same as we saw during the spring, and nowhere near the mid-80s he dropped into last year. Even after the 90-pitch mark, he was still throwing 91.
So for now, let's put that to rest.
That 30-pitch first inning was damaging. He threw first-pitch strikes to just two of the six hitters he faced that inning.
For the rest of the game, Matusz was better, throwing first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 21 hitters he faced. Now, that's not a great number, but it's definitely better than it seemed. But he lost far too many hitters into 2-0 and 3-1 counts. He had eight three-ball counts, four of them turning into walks.
And obviously, that's not something you can do against the Yankees and expect to win. They always seem to pounce on that. Matusz might have been able to dodge damage against other American League lineups, but not New York's.
Granted, Matusz also had some help from his defense. Wieters threw out Derek Jeter trying to steal third to end a threat. And J.J. Hardy made a lunging play in the hole to avert further damage in the Yankees' three-run fourth.
Matusz has taken steps forward in rebounding from last year. You have to give him credit for taking his career into his own hands and dedicating himself to becoming better in the offseason. It showed this spring. You also have to give him kudos for making it clear he wasn't happy with his first outing. He could have spun it the other way. But Monday's game goes to show he's still a ways away from getting his groove back.
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