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Brian Matusz unclear on status for Opening Day as back issue lingers

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz during spring training practice at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
Baltimore Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz during spring training practice at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz, who has made just two appearances this spring because of a lingering back strain, said he planned to play catch Friday for the first time since a cortisone shot earlier this week but didn't know how soon he could return to games.

That puts Opening Day in question for the Orioles' lone situational lefty in the bullpen from last season. He said a meeting was scheduled with pitching coach Dave Wallace, bullpen coach Dom Chiti and head trainer Richie Bancells Friday morning after a mandatory clubhouse meeting to plot out a path forward for the last week of spring.

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"We're going to sit down and kind of look at the schedule and discuss a plan and go from there," Matusz said.

It's been a tough spring for Matusz, who will earn $3.9 million this season.

He worked his way back from the initial issue, which cropped up after his March 2 appearance against the Atlanta Braves, to pitch in a game Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"I think kind of in the heat of the moment, pitching and everything, I didn't really notice it," Matusz said. "Just with the adrenaline, playing in a game. I might have been just feeling around for that type of thing, but after that inning it kind of stiffened a little bit. That's when we met with Richie and decided to do what we did.

"It was, I guess, more just an uncomfortable feeling. It just felt like at that time I felt like a cortisone shot was the best route to go in order to be most useful to help this team, and I felt like then was the right time to do it. Now we're going to take it day-by-day and go from there."

The team has spent the last week trying to bolster its left-handed relief options to compensate. They have T.J. McFarland, who's more of a long reliever at this point, and signed reliever Zach Phillips to a one-year deal on Wednesday, then added left-hander Edgar Olmos in a minor league trade from the Cubs on Thursday.

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