Orioles lefty Brian Matusz will be eligible to pitch Sunday, officially ending his eight-game suspension for using a “foreign substance” — a mix of rosin and sunscreen — in the 12th inning of the club’s loss in Miami on May 23.
Matusz was back in the Camden Yards clubhouse Saturday, joking with teammates and carefully answering questions from media about the incident and subsequent punishment.
“It is what it is,” said Matusz, who is 1-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 17 games. “[Major League Baseball] said eight games, so it’s eight games.”
The Orioles were ticked that Matusz, who had the substance on his non-throwing arm and used it to better grip the baseball, was suspended at all and specifically because Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith’s eight-game suspension for the same offense two days earlier was reduced to six.
The common belief is that Smith’s was reduced and Matusz’s wasn’t because Smith typically pitches more in a given week.
“I’ve heard some things,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I can’t feel confident enough in that that was the reason.”
Matusz wouldn’t comment specifically on the decision or the discrepancy between his suspension and Smith’s.
“I’m not going to say what I really want to say, but no. No, Will Smith, he lucked out, he got the better end of the deal,” Matusz said. “I think there was many people that thought that [the discrepancy wasn’t fair]. But he got six, I got eight. It’s what happened.”
Matusz has spent the past week at the club’s minor league complex working with pitching rehabilitation coordinator Scott McGregor and club vice president Brady Anderson. Matusz threw two two-inning stints in extended spring and then had a bullpen session Friday.
“Throwing innings, being able to face hitters — really all we could do is make the best of an unfortunate situation,” Matusz said.
Showalter said he expects Matusz to pitch Sunday if a reliever is needed.
“He is ready to go. He is front and center,” Showalter said.
As for what Matusz will use to get a better grip going forward, Matusz quipped, “I guess will hold onto the ball tighter, I don’t know.”
Showalter continues to be baffled by the situation, saying rosin is legal and club dermatologists and MLB have urged players to use sunscreen to protect their skin during games. Showalter said Yankees pitcher Esmil Rogers was bouncing the rosin bag off his arm Friday to stop sweat from running onto his hand — and the Orioles were OK with that.
“I want him to grip the ball well, a sweaty night, I really do,” Showalter said. “You get rosin everywhere, it’s a legal substance. We were told you couldn’t put it on your arms. That isn’t true.”
Showalter, who has lobbied for tackier baseballs to provide a better grip for pitchers, predicts the rosin rule will be changed this winter.
“They’ll fix it. I think they’ll fix it this offseason,” he said. “It’s been a problem for a while.”
Orioles release Cabrera
On Saturday afternoon, the Orioles announced they released infielder Everth Cabrera, who had been designated for assignment June 5.
The club couldn’t find a trade partner for the 28-year-old Cabrera, so they gave him his release. He is now free to sign with any team.
“He’s going to have a lot of options available to him now,” Showalter said. “I don’t know what [his camp’s] thought is.”
Signed to a $2.4 million deal in February, the Orioles are still on the hook for roughly $1.4 million remaining on that contract. If another team signs Cabrera to a deal, they likely would do so at the prorated minimum (about $300,000 now); the Orioles would then be responsible for the original contract minus the prorated minimum.
Cabrera hit .208 with a .250 on-base percentage in 29 games while playing shortstop and second base with the club dealing with injuries to starters. With J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty back, Cabrera lost his potential starting spot and became expendable.
“You don’t go down that road that we went with him last week if you don’t feel good about your replacements,” Showalter said.
Bundy to get MRA
Orioles top prospect Dylan Bundy, who hasn’t pitched for Double-A Bowie since May 21 because of right shoulder tendinitis, is expected to undergo an MRA — an MRI with dye injected — in his shoulder soon, Showalter said. The manager described it as a precautionary move, “just to verify that everything is gone. Not like they have a problem or are looking at something.”
Bundy, 22, was 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA in eight games with Bowie this year as he attempts to come back from right elbow surgery in 2013.
Around the horn
Showalter said Mike Wright will start Sunday’s game against the Yankees assuming Wright is not needed in the bullpen Saturday night. … Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal wore a special bow tie in honor of late Orioles PR director Monica Barlow and the LUNGevity Foundation during the network’s game at Camden Yards on Saturday. The Oriole Bird also wore a special bow tie for the game. Barlow died at age 36 in February 2014 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. … Including Friday night’s victory, the Orioles are 28-3 in their last 31 games in which catcher Caleb Joseph drives in at least one run. … Showalter said the Orioles are in the physical exam stage with several 2015 draft picks. The club does not announce signings until physicals are completed.