Brian Matusz hasn't pitched in a game since the Orioles removed him from the rotation after he gave up five runs in 11/3 innings to the New York Yankees on Sept. 5, but manager Buck Showalter said he hasn't closed the door yet on Matusz's season, and that the 24-year-old left-hander has been working extremely hard this past week on his control problems.
It's still possible he could make an appearance out of the bullpen or even another start before the year comes to a close. Showalter said he might even consider Matusz for a start next week. Baltimore has a day off Thursday, then three home games against the Los Angeles Angels, and they begin a four-game road series against the Boston Red Sox with a doubleheader Monday.
"The big thing [we wanted] is for Brian to work hard and make use of this time, and he has," Showalter said. "He's gotten after it. He's one of the first and last guys here, and he's getting something out of each day."
This season couldn't have gone much worse for Matusz. He was injured in spring training, and when he eventually returned to the team, he struggled with his control and velocity. Once considered one of the top prospects in baseball, Matusz was statistically one of the worst pitchers in the majors when he was on the mound. In 10 starts, he went 1-7 with a 9.84 ERA and a 2.02 WHIP.
Even though he insisted he wasn't injured, the Orioles became worried nothing good could come from trotting him out to the mound every five days and watching him get pounded, so they asked him to work on some mechanical issues in the bullpen until further notice. Showalter said Matusz's strong workout Wednesday was a positive sign.
"I'm proud of the way he's approached it, and I'm looking forward to him getting some return for it at some point," the manager said.
Jones feeling better
Adam Jones wasn't in the starting lineup Wednesday for the fifth straight day, but the center fielder was good spirits in the clubhouse, saying his right thumb — which was wrapped in black athletic tape — feels a lot better. Jones had an X-ray on it Tuesday, but the scan didn't reveal a break and the Orioles' training staff doesn't believe he needs to have an MRI.
"I've been resting," Jones said. "I haven't been trying to hit. I can throw though. It feels better today. With [Wednesday] off, and an extra day off [Thursday], hopefully we can get the swelling down and it will be all good."
Showalter said he hadn't ruled out using Jones as a pinch-hitter Wednesday if necessary.
"We're hoping this is behind him by Friday," Showalter said. "Today is the first day that he's really had some marked improvement."
2012 schedule released
Major League Baseball released its 2012 schedule Wednesday, and the Orioles will begin their season April 6 with a six-game homestand against the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees. The 2012 season will mark the 21st year the team has played its home games at Camden Yards.
The Orioles will play each of their American League East rivals three times at Oriole Park. In addition to their opening homestand from April 9 to 11, the New York Yankees will make a two-game stop in Baltimore on May 14-15 and play a four-game weekend series Sept. 6-9. The Red Sox will have three three-game series at Camden Yards — May 21-23, Aug. 14-16 and Sept. 28-30. The Tampa Bay Rays will make their first trip to Oriole Park the weekend of May 11-13, followed by two more three-game series July 24-26 and Sept. 11-13. The Toronto Blue Jays will play in Baltimore on April 24-26, Aug. 24-26 and Sept. 24-26.
In interleague play, the Philadelphia Phillies will make a weekend trip to Camden Yards, June 8-10, followed by a visit by the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 12-14. The Orioles will also continue their rivalry with Washington in a home-and-home series against the Nationals. Baltimore will visit Nationals Park on May 18-20, then host a weekend series June 22-24. The Orioles will also travel to Atlanta on June 15-17 and New York on June 18-20 to face the Braves and Mets.
Showalter acknowledged that he glanced at the schedule but said he won't think about it much until spring training begins.
"I've got other things right now that require my attention," he said.
Nick Markakis said he doesn't have any lingering issues, not even soreness, from a collision at home plate with the Yankees' Francisco Cervelli last week. Cervelli, however, wasn't so lucky. The catcher has been dealing with soreness and dizziness since the collision, and on Wednesday the Yankees put him on the 15-day disabled list.
Markakis said it's just one of those things that happens in baseball, when a runner has to make a split-second decision to slide or put his shoulder down. It was, however, the first time in his career Markakis has been in a collision at the plate.
"I was just trying to score, and he wasn't blocking the plate," Markakis said. "I wasn't going to slide because I have a better chance of hurting myself that way. I was just trying to knock out the ball any way I could. I knew it was going to be bang-bang, so I just made a last-minute decision to try to knock the ball out and score."
Orioles minor leaguer Rhyne Hughes was suspended 50 games after testing positive for an amphetamine, Major League Baseball announced.
Hughes, who hit .249 with 15 homers and 59 RBIs this past season for Triple-A Norfolk, will begin serving his suspension next season.
Colorado Rockies minor league right-hander Randol Rogers and Cincinnati Reds minor league righty Cole Green also were suspended 50 games for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.