Admittedly, I didn’t stay up late to watch the Orioles beat the Athletics on Monday night. Once the Woah Bundy era officially began around midnight, it was time to flip over to Hallmark Channel and doze off to “Golden Girls.”
But if there's a night to stay up late with the Orioles on this road trip, it's tonight. It's just one game out of 162 in another lost season, but it could have an impact on the future of the Orioles' rebuilding effort.
Brian Matusz, whose early-season struggles and subsequent demotion was one of many punches to the stomach the Orioles have endured in 2011, will make his first major-league start in more than a month. After going 1-4 with an 8.77 ERA in six major-league starts, the young left-hander spent some time in Triple-A Norfolk. Initially, his struggles continued down on the farm, but improved performances earned him a call-up to the majors.
"I feel really good about it," he said Monday of his return. "My last three starts have been excellent. I've been able to get in a nice, consistent groove and feel confidence about all my pitches and have a good idea of what I'm doing out there. I'm really looking forward going into my start [Tuesday], especially coming off a bunch of good outings down there, and being able to keep my groove going."
This start isn’t going to make or break his career. But it has the potential to be a big confidence-builder for Matusz, who saw his velocity drop and his ERA rise this season. No matter what, this will be chalked up as a disappointing season for the 24-year-old. However, a strong final two months in Baltimore will send him into the offseason on a good note, and hopefully he’ll somehow be able to turn this rocky summer into something positive for the future.
"It's been a tough year, going through a lot of different scenarios, but I definitely feel prepared and feel good about my health physically and confident going into the start [Tuesday night]," Matusz said. "[Tuesday] is my only focus, and getting myself back into this level, facing big league hitters."
A good start against the Athletics late Tuesday night would, well, be a good start. That’s why I’ll be tuning in.