O's, Matusz still far apart as signing deadline looms

The Baltimore Sun

CLEVELAND - The Orioles had more extensive negotiations yesterday with Marc Agar, the agent for first-round draft pick Brian Matusz. However, the two sides remain far apart on a deal, leaving the Orioles with 72 hours to reach an agreement with the fourth overall pick before they lose the rights to the University of San Diego pitcher.

Club president Andy MacPhail said last night that the issue has become a concern.

"The fact that it's not done yet and we thought it would get done earlier, that makes it a concern," MacPhail said. "We really don't have much in the way of progress to report at this present time."

Orioles director of scouting Joe Jordan wouldn't comment specifically on the negotiations, saying only: "We're working on it as we speak, but there's no need for me to publicly comment."

Matusz made his first public comments about the issue late Monday, sending an e-mail to several local media outlets, including The Sun. Matusz reiterated his desire to sign a deal with the club before Friday's midnight deadline.

"Both the Orioles and myself have been working diligently on getting a deal done," Matusz wrote, thanking Orioles fans for their support. "I want to sign and will do so upon receiving a fair (not record-breaking) deal. While I am not at liberty to discuss any parameters or numbers of the deal, I am hopeful that a resolution can be reached."

Only three of the top 10 first-round picks - Tim Beckham (No. 1, Tampa Bay Rays), Kyle Skipworth (No. 6, Florida Marlins) and Jason Castro (No. 10, Houston Astros) - have signed.

The fourth pick last year, Clemson left-handed pitcher Daniel Moskos, agreed to a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates that included a $2.5 million signing bonus. However, it is believed Matusz is seeking a major league deal worth more than twice that number.

Last season, the Orioles followed the Pirates' selection by picking Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, who agreed to terms minutes before the deadline on a franchise-record $6 million signing bonus. That was the second-highest signing bonus in history, behind only the $6.1 million given to Arizona's Justin Upton in 2005.

Asked about the possibility of not signing Matusz, MacPhail said: "You never want that at the end of the day, but fortunately, you're not penalized as much as [you] used to be and your pick is more or less deferred. But that's not the result you want on draft day."

No moves for now

A day after watching Dennis Sarfate last just five innings, the Orioles stood pat rather than making any roster moves to bolster the taxed bullpen.

"I'm more concerned with the starters going longer in the game than I am about making a move," manager Dave Trembley said before last night's game. "We'll maybe get a good starting performance out of Garrett [Olson] tonight and that will take care of the other stuff."

Trembley also said Sarfate, who has allowed 14 earned runs in 11 innings in his three starts, remains in the rotation for now, but the matter will be discussed further with MacPhail in coming days.

"Until I'm told otherwise or until a decision is made, that's what it is," Trembley said. "The rotation stays the way it is. We have a couple of days yet before I have to make a decision on that one if something were to happen."

Walker frustrated

Veteran left-handed reliever Jamie Walker is not one to mince words, and he certainly let his frustration be known after his team's 13-8 loss here on Monday. In the game, the Orioles' bullpen allowed six earned runs in four innings, three of them by Walker, who surrendered two long home runs.

"Look, if your starter doesn't go deep, it's hard to win games," Walker said. "It really is. It taxes the whole bullpen, and we don't have that deep of a bullpen right now. I don't mean that knocking on anybody. It's just not a deep bullpen as it was when it first started with the injuries and the trades. It's frustrating as hell. You look up and you score eight runs and you lose. It [ticks] me off. As a pitcher, you take pride in that."

For Walker, the three earned runs were the first he's allowed in five appearances since coming off the disabled list with left elbow inflammation. He's also now allowed eight home runs in 26 1/3 innings this season, one shy of a career high. Left-handers are hitting .344 against him this season.

"I'm not going to make excuses," Walker said. "I didn't get the ball down. That's been my thing. It's been a tough year. If there was a positive, I threw strikes, just not quality strikes. Everything was [waist]-high or belt-high."


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