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Orioles' Matusz throws four scoreless innings

Lefty's fastball consistently in 90s as he allows three hits, strikes out four

By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun

6:41 PM EST, March 10, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. —

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This was only Brian Matusz's second Grapefruit League outing of the spring, but the results had to have Orioles fans optimistic.

Matusz, trying to rebound from a poor 2011 season, threw four scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field on Saturday.

Matusz, whose velocity dropped into the mid-80s last season, had radar guns behind home plate consistently showing him in the 90-91 mph range, and his fastball peaked at 94 in the fourth inning.

"It felt like it was coming out good," Matusz said. I wasn't sure exactly how hard it [was], but it felt like it was coming out effortlessly, nice explosion."

He allowed just three hits, striking out four and walking none while mixing in curveballs and changeups against a Phillies lineup that included at least five starters. His best effort might have come in his last inning, when struck out Jim Thome and Hunter Pence swinging after allowing a one-out double to Shane Victorino.

"That's a tough lineup, especially at home in Clearwater," Matusz said. "It felt nice to be able to go out there against a top-notch lineup and be able to attack the zone like that."

Catcher Matt Wieters said Matusz is showing he's "a different guy from last year."

"[He's] throwing all his pitches for strikes, and two-strike putaways," Wieters said. "He was able to have command in Monday's outing, but he wasn't able to throw the two-strike pitches where he wanted to. He was able to throw both, get ahead off-speed as well as put away off-speed."

Saturday's outing was a vast improvement from Matusz's spring debut on Monday, when he allowed six hits and three earned runs in two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"There was a lot of room for improvement from his last outing," manager Buck Showalter said. "We'll see. Each one is another step for him. It's a good one for him."

Reimold eyes quick return

Less than 24 hours after left fielder Nolan Reimold was hit in the left side of the jaw, the Orioles were optimistic about a quick return.

Reimold, who suffered a chipped tooth but, remarkably, no broken bones, has a dentist appointment Monday to repair a chipped tooth, and he could rejoin the starting lineup as early as Tuesday, Showalter said.

"He's in a good frame of mind," Showalter said. "I want to get him back out there. I was thinking about playing him in the "B" game tomorrow, but I'll wait until he gets to the dentist's and gets that all out of the way. We're going to try to get him back in the saddle as soon as we can."

Reimold said he never lost consciousness when the ball hit him squarely on the jaw. He stayed down on the field as long as he did because the training staff told him to stay still until they could make sure there was no neck instability. He said he feels very fortunate he was not hurt worse.

"I thought for sure something was wrong because it hit me so square," he said, "It caught me right in the meat of the jaw, so I guess I'm pretty lucky. I didn't see any stars or anything like that, so I knew it wasn't anything in my head. It was just right in the jaw, and I was checking my teeth."

It's been a busy time for Reimold — his wife is expecting the couple's second child next week — but for now Reimold's day-to-day challenge is trying to eat solid food.

"Actually, it's not quite as swollen as it was yesterday," Showalter said. "He had ice on. He said he tried to eat a sandwich and he couldn't quite get there yet. So he's souping it up."

Davis launches first homer

It took seven games, but the Orioles got their first home run of the spring, and it proved to be the difference in their 1-0 win over the Phillies.

First baseman Chris Davis took an 0-1 pitch from Phillies right-hander Scott Elarton over the right-field fence to lead off the fourth inning.

"I think it's funny that it was the first one of the spring. I felt like every place we've played, the wind has been blowing in," Davis said. "Our park was a joke the first few days. And then we get here and it's supposed to be a good place to hit, and we look up and the wind's blowing in. The games I've been in, I've seen a lot of guys hit the ball hard, hit balls low, which is kind of what you want early in spring."

Around the horn

The Orioles have allowed just four runs in their past 37 innings (a 0.97 ERA), but Showalter warned not to look much into it. "I don't think anybody's going to sit here and sign off on that," he said. "We've got a long road to go. There are so many factors down here that will fool you. … Right-hander Alfredo Simon threw three shutout innings Saturday and has thrown five scoreless innings this spring. … Showalter said he has spoken with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette about making the first round of cuts. He didn't specify when those cuts would be made, but it's likely they'll be made shortly after Sunday's game. … Exactly three weeks after pitchers-and-catchers report day, catcher Ronny Paulino arrived at camp. He took his physical and was on the field at the team's morning workout. He's expected to be a full workout participant Sunday. … Showalter said that right-hander Kevin Gregg is pitching in Sunday's "B" game because he's going to make the team and the Orioles want to see some of the competing pitchers in game situations. … After his "B" game appearance Sunday, right-handed reliever Jim Johnson's next step would be pitching in Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Pirates, Showalter said. Right fielder Nick Markakis is also slated to return in that game. … Catcher Taylor Teagarden, who said he jarred his lower back weightlifting, could be sidelined for several days. He underwent X-rays on Friday, but they showed no structural damage. … Third baseman Mark Reynolds should return to the lineup Sunday after dealing with lower-back stiffness the past two days. Another Oriole with lower back stiffness, reliever Matt Lindstrom, is progressing. The Orioles completed their contract signings for 2012, signing 17 players to one-year deals: Ryan Adams, Jake Arrieta, Josh Bell, Jason Berken, Zach Britton, Chris Davis, Oliver Drake, Ryan Flaherty, Tommy Hunter, Joe Mahoney, Troy Patton, Zach Phillips, Reimold, Simon, Pedro Strop, Teagarden and Chris Tillman. The team also renewed Wieters' contract.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.