WASHINGTON — Orioles fans are still struggling with the fact that their team let Jake Arrieta get away right before he popped and became a superstar pitching ace for the Chicago Cubs. Now, they'll have to wait and wonder if the same thing might happen to Brian Matusz.
Matusz was traded by the Orioles to the Atlanta Braves three weeks ago and was quickly released in a deal that was really about the Orioles dumping salary with the Braves gaining a competitive-balance draft pick and the draft bonus money that came with it. On Tuesday, Matusz signed a minor league contract with the Cubs.
And, it looks like Arrieta had a hand in the Cubs' decision to sign Matusz and give him a chance to resurrect his career -- perhaps as a starting pitcher.
"I was involved in the conversation," Arrieta said Wednesday, as the Cubs prepared to play a late-afternoon game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. "I told them what kind of guy he is. I talked about his days early in his career when he was dominant as a starter for a while. He had to go through a lot of things I had to go through. We worked with the same people, so it wasn't much different.
"He landed on the DL with an intercostal, I think in 2012. It slowed him down and he was mechanically different than he was at [the University of] San Diego or early in the minor leagues, or even his first year in the big leagues. I expressed my desire to get him here, because I know that he's still got a lot of good ball ahead of him. He can pitch."
Arrieta, of course, never developed properly in Baltimore and his career blossomed after he was traded along with reliever Pedro Strop to the Cubs for veteran pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger. Arrieta thinks the same could be said for Matusz.
"He's got four plus pitches," Arrieta said. "For Matusz, I can easily see this turning into an incredibly positive point in his career. ... He's a smart guy. He knows what he has to do to get himself right and this organization will do anything it can to help him."
Manager Joe Maddon said that he isn't sure whether the organization will steer Matusz back toward starting when he joins the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate in Iowa or whether he'll still be a candidate to help the club's bullpen.
"I don't know," Maddon said. "I know that there are some things that we've talked about. In our attempt to make him better, we have some ideas.
"When he first came up, we with the Rays thought this guy was going to be outstanding for a long period of time, then he hit a bump in the road. I don't know where he's at right now mentally. Physically, I heard he's doing pretty well, so it's really an interesting sign because when this guy is good, he's really good."