HOUSTON — Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz's suspension appeal was heard Wednesday morning in a conference room at Minute Maid Park.
During the one-hour hearing, Matusz appealed the eight-game ban handed down from Major League Baseball for allegedly having a "foreign substance" on his right forearm in the 12th inning of the Orioles' May 23 contest against the Miami Marlins.
Both executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter were in attendance, and Duquette testified at the hearing, which was heard by an independent arbiter. MLB disciplinarian Joe Garagiola Jr. represented the league.
Matusz said he doesn't know when he will receive a decision in the case, but it's possible rulings come Friday on Matusz's case and that of Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith, who also received an eight-game suspension for allegedly having a "foreign substance" on his arm. Smith's appeal was heard Monday
"This is the first time going through anything like this, so I'm not really sure," Matusz said. "We presented our case, said everything we needed to. It's really out of our hands right now. Just waiting to hear that final decision."
The Orioles have contended that a mixture of rosin and sunscreen created stickiness on Matusz's arm, but replays didn't show any discernible substance.
"I'm biased," Showalter said. "I think it's a completely different case than [the other] one. I understand where it starts with precedent. You have to start somewhere."
Despite now anxiously awaiting a ruling, Matusz said he was glad to get the hearing behind him.
"I want to get back to just playing baseball and doing what I can to help this team win," Matusz said. "That's ultimately what it's all about. Be nice to have this in the rearview mirror, to be able to move forward and just help this team win ballgames."
Orioles receive minor league pitcher for De Aza
The Orioles dealt outfielder Alejandro De Aza to the division-rival Boston Red Sox on Wednesday in exchange for minor league right-hander Joe Gunkel.
The Orioles also sent the Red Sox an undisclosed amount of cash to cover a portion of the remaining $3.55 million on De Aza's $5 million salary for 2015.
The Orioles designated De Aza for assignment May 27 after he batted .214 with a .277 on-base and .359 slugging percentage, three homers and seven RBIs in 30 games this season. By designating De Aza, the Orioles had 10 days to either trade or release him. He couldn't be sent to the minors without his consent because he has more than five years of major league service time.
The 31-year-old was acquired from the Chicago White Sox last August for two minor league pitchers, and proceeded to hit .293/.341/.537 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 20 games down the stretch. He also went 7-for-21 in the playoffs.
Gunkel was 3-2 with a 2.90 ERA in 12 outings (five starts) at high Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. After opening the season mainly as a reliever at Salem, Gunkel went 2-1 with a 3.93 ERA in four games (three starts) with Portland. Gunkel has an impressive 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings this season, fanning 44 and issuing 12 walks in 40 1/3 innings.
Duquette said in a text message that Gunkel has "good size, [a] nice, fluid delivery and three [major league] pitches."
Gunkel will report to Double-A Bowie. He was an 18th-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2013 out of West Chester University of Pennsylvania.
De Aza was the Orioles' starting left fielder and leadoff hitter on Opening Day, and the team expected him to play a big role this season. But his playing time dwindled as he hit just .186 in 15 games in May. He had just one hit in his last 14 at-bats as an Oriole.
The Orioles had six outfielders, none with minor league options, and De Aza was the odd man out.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal was the first to report that De Aza was being traded.
Hardy feeling better, eyeing weekend return
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy missed his third straight game Wednesday with a mild left oblique injury, but began to test it by taking dry swings and 30 swings off a tee.
Hardy did not take batting practice before Wednesday's game, but plans to do so before Thursday afternoon's series finale in Houston. He hopes to return to the starting lineup during this weekend's series in Cleveland.
"I feel like if I'm not going to be able to play by the end of the road trip, it will be a DL thing," Hardy said. "… I'm frustrated, I know that. … It feels so much better than it did two days ago. There's still some discomfort, but not nearly what it was two days ago."
Hardy has been cautious because the irritation in his left side felt similar to an oblique injury he suffered early in the 2011 season that cost him 25 games.
"I'm hoping tomorrow, but it's probably not realistic," Showalter said. "I just want him to be able to play without any mental restrictions or physical restrictions."
Orioles add left-hander McFarland
With Matusz's status in question and the Orioles preparing to face a lefty-heavy Indians lineup in Cleveland this weekend, the team recalled left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned right-hander Oliver Drake back to the Tides.
If Matusz's suspension is upheld, the Orioles bullpen would be down a man and closer Zach Britton would be the only left-hander. So the addition of McFarland, who has held lefties to a .214 average in five major league appearances this year, gives them another lefty against a Cleveland lineup that features five left-handed hitters and two switch-hitters.
"We talked about it two or three days ago," Showalter said. "Mac's day to start is [Thursday] and you're always in need of length. It's just where we are. We don't know when the [appeal] decision will come down, so people that are versatile and can pitch multiple innings and are durable like Mac, they really come into play. If you have to go with a six-man bullpen, you're going to need as much of that as you can use."
Around the horn
Catcher Matt Wieters, who caught one game and was the designated hitter in the other game of a doubleheader at Norfolk on Wednesday, will join the team Friday in Cleveland. He is expected to be activated from the DL that day and make his season debut behind the plate. Showalter decided against rushing Wieters to Houston to DH in Thursday afternoon's game. "Looking at all the factors, I want him to start fresh with fresh legs," Showalter said. … The next step for right-hander Bud Norris, who also made his final minor league rehabilitation appearance Wednesday in the first game at Norfolk, is more unclear. Norris didn't allow a hit in four scoreless innings Wednesday, striking out two and walking one. He was shortened up to 57 pitches so he can be an option to start Sunday in Cleveland. Rookie right-hander Mike Wright is also in line to start that day. Showalter has yet to announce a starter. … Showalter said second baseman Jonathan Schoop, whose recovery from a right knee injury has been slow, has begun to play in extended spring training games in Sarasota, Fla. Vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson is down in Sarasota gauging the recoveries of the team's injured players.