Matusz building resume with each start
Rookie pitcher learning to slow the game down
MINNEAPOLIS -- Five starts into his big-league career, Brian Matusz isn't concerned with his statistics. The former first-round Draft pick knows his numbers and knows that he can perform better, but he's also fully cognizant that he's building an important foundation and moving forward pitch-by-pitch and outing by outing.
"From the first five starts, I've learned so much," Matusz said Wednesday. "I really have learned a lot about myself and yesterday was one of the biggest learning days because I was able to battle through a game without having my best stuff. Knowing I could still still go five innings, put together a decent outing and still give the team a chance to win without my good stuff, it makes me feel a lot better knowing how well I can do if I do have my good stuff."
Matusz, the fourth overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, managed to make his big league debut less than a year after signing his first professional contract. The southpaw turned in an impressive half-season at Class A Frederick and seven dominant turns at Double-A Bowie before the Orioles called his number.
And now, despite being in an early stage of his development, he's already in the Majors. Matusz said that one of the important lessons he's gleaned from his brief time in the big leagues is how imperative it is to avoid a big inning. The left-hander has fallen victim to crooked numbers a few times and wants to learn to slow things down.
"The same stuff works, but hitters adjust a lot better than they do in the Minor Leagues," he said of his approach. "Right now, I'm having some mechanical flaws, and [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] and I went over video for a while today. I'm learning mechanically what I have to do to be consistent and down in the zone. My changeup wasn't very consistent yesterday and now I know why after looking at video. It's just making adjustments like that."
The Orioles have talked about limiting the rookie's innings down the stretch to make sure he doesn't overtax his arm, and manager Dave Trembley said he's already seen enough to gauge his competitiveness.
"When we need to get three tough outs from him, he'll give them to you," Trembley said. "He has a way of coming up with some big pitches when he has to. He has a way of slowing the game down when he has to. I thought yesterday was the first time in the starts that he's had where he might have been a little too fast, he might have got caught up with their lineup a little bit. But he did slow the game down in the fifth and he made very good pitches."
The potential is quite clearly there, despite the 6.46 ERA and the 2.03 WHIP through five starts. Matusz, who threw in the Arizona Fall League last season but didn't pitch in an organized pro league, made sure to stress that he's excited about the opportunity he's been given and determined to work hard and get better at his craft.
"The hardest part is being able to trust my stuff and not try to overpower guys, because when I try to overpower guys, I don't throw as hard and my mechanics get all out of whack," he said. "I just have to trust my stuff and get into a comfortable groove. That's been the hardest part for me -- going out there and feeling comfortable. I've had innings where I've felt comfortable, but I haven't had that full game where I've really felt relaxed yet. And I'm not worried, because I know it's just a matter of time and gaining that experience for it to start turning around."
Trembley has a rotation packed with rookies, and he knows that patience is the most important buzzword right now and going into the future. Trembley is trying to win at the same time as he's trying to develop his pitchers, and his job is to keep an eye on the big picture without putting too much strain or stress on any individual arm.
"Their last two, three, four starts or whatever, we need to keep being patient with them and keep giving them experience," said Trembley, "And trust that in the future, those guys will go deeper in games because they're not five-inning pitchers. They're not 5 1/3 inning pitchers. They're going to have to break through that cloud, that barrier, because to expect that you're going to get 12 outs out of your bullpen every night, that's not going to happen."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.