LAKELAND, Fla. - Brian Matusz continued his impressive spring against a first-class major league lineup. Facing the Detroit Tigers, Matusz allowed two hits in four innings, striking out six. He looked terrific.
Not only did Matusz get to face Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the rest of the Tigers lineup, but he pitched against Justin Verlander. The reigning American League Cy Young winner and Most Valuable Player gave up his first run of the spring, a leadoff home run to Endy Chavez.
Matusz left after four innings with a 1-0 lead, but Detroit scored three runs in the sixth to beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 before 8,069 at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday.
The Orioles haven't won since Matusz beat the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 last Saturday, and they're now 4-6-2.
The record doesn't necessarily matter to manager Buck Showalter. Certainly, he wants to win, but right now, he's just enjoying Matusz's renaissance.
For the first time, Matusz worked with Ronny Paulino, and the catcher, who was three weeks late arriving to camp, told his new charge to just have fun.
"So, OK, I went out and had fun with it," Matusz said.
He didn't say that he was especially excited to pitch against the Tigers, nor the Phillies last week.
"It's a tough lineup," Matusz said. "They have a lot of big hitters. It doesn't matter. Every team at this level is good."
Matusz had a rough first outing this spring, as he allowed three runs and six hits in two innings against Pittsburgh. But he has followed with eight scoreless innings, during which he has given up just five hits and struck out 10. He hasn't walked a batter in 10 innings, but did hit one on Thursday.
"It was good to see him back up his last outing with another good one," Showalter said. "I'm happy for Brian as much as anything."
Showalter isn't sure whether Matusz's confidence will last once he has another uneven outing.
"He has a little different look in his eye. Will that go away at some point? But right now, he's put himself in a position to be good," Showalter said.
Verlander struck out eight in 3 2/3 innings.
TEAGARDEN HOPING: Taylor Teagarden is hoping that he'll be ready to play Opening Day. A day after receiving an epidural injection in his back, Teagarden said he still hoped he'd be ready by April 6.
"I've got to take a couple of weeks to let my back heal," Teagarden said. "I'm not really sure what the timeframe is. It could have been worse. It is going to take a little time to heal."
Paulino started for the first time on Thursday. Without Teagarden, the Orioles may be in the market for a new backup and have Paulino and John Hester in the fold.
HITTING IT: Chavez is batting .421(8-for-19). He leads the Orioles in hits. Jai Miller, who was hitless in three at-bats, has seven RBIs. Matt Wieters doesn't have an RBI in seven games.
COMING UP: The Orioles travel to Fort Myers on Friday to face the Minnesota Twins. Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland and Zach Phillips will pitch for Baltimore. Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Alex Burnett and Sam Deduno are scheduled for the Twins.
ODDS AND ENDS: Zach Britton threw two scoreless innings in a minor league game at Twin Lakes. ... Miguel Socolovich injured his groin during the sixth inning and had to be removed from the game. ... Jason Berken said his injured left hamstring has improved, and he hopes to pitch in a game next week. ... Pitcher Oliver Drake was optioned to Class AA Bowie. Catcher Caleb Joseph will be reassigned to minor league camp after this weekend's games.