SARASOTA, Fla. — Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz had plenty of help in his fourth Grapefruit League start Tuesday afternoon against the Phillies at Ed Smith Stadium.
Coming off back-to-back scoreless outings, Matusz's outing Tuesday wasn't his best of the spring, but the 25-year-old took another step toward earning a spot in the Orioles' starting rotation.
He threw a spring training-high five innings, allowing seven hits — including three hits to lead off innings —but yielded just one run.
"It's going to happen over the course of a season, multiple times," Matusz said. "It's about trying to be able to find a way to win, find a way to go as deep as I could go and keep grinding. That's what I was able to do [Tuesday]."
He was aided by three double-play balls, plus a nice play by first baseman Chris Davis on a sacrifice bunt in front of the mound to get a lead runner at third base in the fifth inning. Matusz might have received his greatest help from the pitcher-friendly wind, which brought a fourth-inning blast off the bat of John Mayberry, Jr. back in the park for a warning-track fly out.
"He wasn't as crisp as he was in the previous two outings," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Obviously the wind helped him a little bit on the one ball.
"I'm happy with him, with his arm and there's a lot of things going well for him right now. He gave us a chance to win, regardless of the conditions of the one ball. We could have done maybe a couple things better behind him defensively too. I'm happy where he is."
Matusz, whose fastball was steadily at 91-92 mph, struck out three and walked one. He threw 65 pitches (41 strikes), including one wild pitch that went to the backstop to his second hitter of the game.
"That's a given that's going to happen and I think it was good to see him after the stumble he had on the mound," Showalter said. "That was, good to get back, regain his delivery. It's tough."
Over Matusz's past three outings —a span of 13 innings —he's allowed just one run.
Showalter wouldn't say whether he believes Matusz has solidified a spot in the starting rotation.
"I don't think anybody, very few of our guys have enough track record to go right through it to be making a call when you have the type of competition we have right now," Showalter said. "I'm not going to go there, it wouldn't be very smart at all."
Markakis returns to right field
Nick Markakis, who has spent the spring recovering from offseason abdominal surgery, made his first spring start in right field on Tuesday.
Markakis had previously started three games at designated hitter, but his return to the field was a more accurate gauge of where he's at in his recovery.
The 28-year-old Markakis was tested early on Hunter Pence's first-inning single to the right-center field gap. His first step was a tad slow, but that's expected for his first time in the field, Markakis said.
"I felt a little slow, but I just wanted to cut the ball off and keep it in front of me," Markakis said. "Maybe in a game when I'm feeling a little better I'll put a little more effort into it and get closer to that ball and maybe make a play on it, but it was my first day out there. I didn't want to try do anything overboard. I basically wanted to get out there and see how I felt."
Markakis also chased another ball hit by Pence into the right-field corner, rifling a relay throw to Robert Andino, who threw Pence out at third.
"I felt better than I thought," Markakis said. "I felt good. I just would have liked to get a few more balls hit to me, but the one down the line I went after. It felt good."
Markakis said he's still concentrating on getting his speed back. He's been working with outfield coach Wayne Kirby on improving his first step.
"It's just that quick crossover step that gets me a little bit, or it has," Markakis said. "It feels good lately. I talked to the doctors and they all said there's nothing to hurt in there. I don't know if there's inflammation. There's still some scar tissue in there that needs to get out of there. It's just a work in progress. It's just day by day."
Players have union meeting
Orioles players met Tuesdaymorning for their annual briefing with the players' union including Michael Weiner, the executive director of the players' association.
Weiner said a myriad subjects were discussed, including specifics about the new collective bargaining agreement, such as pension funds, health care, etc.
"We talked a lot about what is in the agreement but also how the process worked. How players got involved," Weiner said. "This team, in particular, was very active personally in attending bargaining sessions and really helped to take the lead so we talked a lot about that."
The club is without a player representative because long-time rep Jeremy Guthrie was dealt to the Colorado Rockies on Feb. 6. Reliever Jim Johnson, who has been active with the union, will act as an informal liaison between the Orioles' players and the union until an official vote is held in June.
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As part of his presentation, Weiner said he addressed the situation involving Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun, but "there weren't a lot of questions about the Braun issue." Braun tested positive for a banned substance and that was leaked to the media before he had a chance to appeal; the process is supposed to be confidential until an appeal is denied. Braun's appeal ultimately was upheld due to a procedural infraction in handling his testing.
"It is good that players have questions, they should have questions when you have a development like this," Weiner said. "Once they get the information I'm assuring them and they are accepting it, that we don't have any problems with the integrity of the program going forward."
Around the horn
After starting the spring 4-2-1, the Orioles (6-8-4) have just two wins in their last 11 Grapefruit League games. … Catcher Taylor Teagarden, already shelved with a back injury, was hit in the hand by a foul ball off the bat of former Oriole Ty Wigginton. X-rays were negative. … Second baseman Brian Roberts continues to hit in a cage and take ground balls, and he looked particularly sharp in pregame on Tuesday. Showalter said there's still no timetable him playing in a spring game. … Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada threw a bullpen session Tuesday and is slated to next pitch on three days rest Thursday in a Triple-A minor-league game at Twin Lakes Park. … RHP Darren O'Day (groin) and Jason Berken (hamstring) both had successful pen sessions and could join Wada for a game at the minor-league complex on Thursday. … Showalter said he will likely meet with coaches and executive vice president for baseball operations Dan Duquette following Tuesday'sgame to discuss another round of cuts that could be made Wednesday morning. The roster, currently at 46, will likely pare down to 40 players.
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.