LAKELAND, Fla. ——Before Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz took the mound at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday, his catcher, Ronny Paulino, had a piece of advice:
"Let's have fun."
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Joker Marchant Stadium, 2301 Lakeland Hills Blvd, Lakeland, FL 33805, USA
"Oh, absolutely, had a great time out there today," Matusz said. "[We] have a great group of guys on this team, guys keeping it loose, having fun. Makes it a lot easier with the type of team we have."
Fun wasn't in abundance last year for the 25-year-old lefty, who went 1-9 and posted the worst ERA in major league history (10.69) for someone who made at least 10 big league starts.
But Matusz is preaching that this is a different year, and so far this spring, he looks like the same pitcher who excelled at the end of 2010 and not the one who struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness last season.
On Thursday, Matusz dominated a Tigers lineup that included all its big guns — five days after throwing four scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"He pitched a couple games on the road against what we like to call home-game lineups," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's early, but I just like to see the ball come out of his hand good and commanding all his pitches, regardless of who [he is facing] and where he is pitching. I am happy for Brian as much as anything."
Matusz used an array of impressive off-speed pitches as well as a fastball that was clocked between 91 and 93 mph. He threw 41 of his 60 pitches for strikes — something he said is a priority this season, along with continuing his conditioning program with club special assistant Brady Anderson.
In his past two spring games, Matusz has thrown a combined eight scoreless innings, allowing just five hits while striking out 10.
Orioles lose to Tigers
Veteran outfielder Endy Chavez led off Thursday's game with a home run against the American League's reigning Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander.
Verlander allowed just two more hits and no more runs in the following 32/3 innings while striking out eight batters in the Tigers' victory.
The Tigers took the lead with a three-run sixth against Orioles right-hander Miguel Socolovich, who left the game mid-inning with groin tightness. It's not considered serious.
"He wanted to continue, but we are not going to take a chance there," Showalter said.
The Orioles dropped to 4-6 in the exhibition season while the Tigers improved to 9-1.
Backup catcher options
Taylor Teagarden, who was expected to be the club's reserve catcher, said Thursday that he still isn't giving up hope but acknowledged it might be a push for him to be ready to start the season.
Teagarden learned Wednesday that the back discomfort he is feeling is being caused by a slight tear in the ligament that supports the disk. He had an epidural and has been told that if he responds to treatment, he could be ready to play in two to three weeks.