SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz exited a Minor League start in the second inning on Monday after being struck in the left bicep with a line drive. The team doesn't believe the injury is serious enough to warrant an X-rays.
Matusz, who was wearing a pressure pad as he spoke with reporters, said O's prospect L.J. Hoes sent a fastball straight back at him, prematurely ending a game in which the Orioles hoped to get Matusz at least six innings of work. The game took place on one of the back fields of the Ed Smith Stadium complex and featured six of Baltimore's Minor League players.
Both Matusz and manager Buck Showalter remain hopeful that the lefty will be ready to start the season on Saturday, although given Matusz's last outing -- in which he exited after recording just four outs -- Monday's news is more of a concern.
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"I'm optimistic," said Matusz, who is the Orioles' No. 2 starter. "I don't even think it is going to set me back at all. If anything, I'm upset about not continuing to get my work in. I was starting to feel good. I was starting to get in a good groove. I wanted to get in a little more work. We'll see how it feels [Tuesday] and just go from there."
While it's believed top pitching prospect Zach Britton is likely ticketed for Triple-A, Showalter acknowledged that Monday's events could open the door for another pitcher to make the club. Britton was not one of Monday's cuts and the team could wait and see Matusz's status before making a final decision. It's far more likely that any concerns about Matusz would cause the team to lean toward having both Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen -- who has been slowed by a right forearm contusion -- make the Opening Day roster.
"I think [Matusz has pitched enough to be ready], if he's OK," said Showalter, who could also switch the rotation order after Opening Day starter Jeremy Guthrie. "But we've still got something going on there with Bergesen and Matusz."
Monday's events aside, it has been an odd spring for Matusz, who had a wart removed on his left middle finger earlier in camp and has struggled on the mound, pitching to a 5.93 ERA in five spring games.
"It's been a frustrating spring in that aspect, but at the same time, it's been a very productive spring," Matusz said. "I've been able to work with [pitching coach] Mark Connor and [bullpen coach] Rick Adair and I feel like I've made a lot of strides, a lot of improvements. I'm starting to feel good out there. The wart thing and the line drive back in the arm, it's things that just happen. There's nothing you can do about it. It's just a matter of being able to take care of it and move forward. I'm just hoping I'm ready for my first outing on Saturday."
Britton caps strong spring against Tigers
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Top pitching prospect Zach Britton closed out an impressive spring campaign in the O's 14-9 win over Detroit on Monday, holding the Tigers to two runs over six innings, and finishing with a staff-best 1.35 ERA in his first big league camp.
"You can tell why people think a lot of his potential and future, including me now," manager Buck Showalter said of Britton, who was the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season. "[This spring was the] first time I've really seen him throw other than tape. He's got a chance to be a good one."
The 23-year-old Britton is likely headed to Triple-A to start the season, as the team would prefer to keep him down there until April 21 to delay his service clock and keep him under team control until 2017. And while he's well aware of his situation, Britton also admitted it's frustrating to come into camp and have the deck stacked against him regardless of performance.
"Because as an athlete you compete and you feel like you deserve to be somewhere and [if] you are not, it's kind of a slap in the face I think," Britton said. "But there's a business side of the game, and those guys are hired to go out there and make business decisions. I go out there to pitch and do it well. Like I said, it's frustrating, but it is what it is."
Like many of the Orioles' pitchers, Britton has reworked his delivery this spring with new pitching coach Mark Connor. He also changed the grip on his changeup and has been pleased with the results. When asked if it was going to be hard to stay mentally sharp should he start the season in Norfolk, Britton didn't think so.
"I was in this situation last year too, in September," Britton said, referring to the fact that he didn't get a shot with the O's in last season's expanded rosters.
"I've been through this a couple different times, so I kind of know how to handle it. I'm not the type of guy that's going to go out there and complain about where I am. I'm not going to like it, but I'll go out there and pitch because it doesn't help me or the organization if I go down to Triple-A and pout. I'm not going to get up here any quicker. I need to go out, there and get people out whether I'm in Norfolk or Baltimore. But obviously, I'd be a little happier if I'm in Baltimore.
Britton split 2010 between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk and has come a long way since his first Major League spring against the Phillies, when he was nearly shaking with nervous jitters on the mound.
"This was a great experience," Britton said. "I'm really happy [Showalter] threw me against some good lineups. Or [not] necessarily just good lineups, but being able to face the big league teams that I'm going to face in the AL East this year. I think that's a big confidence booster that I can go up there and compete. I felt like I can hang right up there with everybody."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.