BALTIMORE -- Seeking an internal solution for a multi-inning lefty, the Orioles are going to try starter Brian Matusz in the bullpen, with plans for the 25-year-old to make a few relief appearances for Triple-A Norfolk.
"When you look at Brian's numbers in his career here and down below, he's been very effective against left-handers," manager Buck Showalter said of the idea, which has been kicked around internally for the last week or so. "That's something you'll probably see us do here very quickly."
Why Matusz? Over his career, he has held left-handed hitters to a .223/.281/.384 line -- with 23 walks against 103 strikeouts. In contrast, right-handed hitters have a .309/.373/.506 line with 116 walks and 170 strikeouts. Matusz is expected to get a few outings in relief and then be reevaluated, although Showalter was optimistic it would be a role he would do well in.
"It's something Brian has talked about before, I know to [special assistant Brady Anderson] and some other guys," Showalter said of Matusz, who went 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 16 starts before being sent to Triple-A. "It's something he would welcome if it would help us and also help him get back to the big leagues. We want to let him do it a couple times before we consider him an option, as far as getting up, short notice, get ready, come into a game. I'd be surprised if he can't do it and do it well. It also would give us some length down there."
The Orioles' first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Matusz is 21-33 with a 5.51 ERA in 68 Major League starts over parts of four seasons. His best year to date was 2010, when Matusz went 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA in a career-high 32 starts. Matusz struggled with injury and ineffectiveness last season, going 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts, but he had a solid Spring Training and made the team's Opening Day rotation.
With southpaw reliever Troy Patton placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, the Orioles traded for veteran J.C. Romero on Monday as the lone lefty in the 'pen. Asked why the club felt the move was best for Matusz to make instead of Jake Arrieta and fellow lefty Zach Britton, who are also in Triple-A, Showalter said they don't know that for sure just yet.
"If you look at his left-on-left numbers through his career, he has the best of that [group]," Showalter said. "When you have three or four right-handed starters, you really like to have a left-handed guy who's capable of pitching multiple innings, because the lineup's going to be primarily left and you can really get back in a ballgame with somebody like that. I'd be surprised if Brian couldn't do it, and I think the other part of it is he will embrace it, I think.
"It's where we are. We're going to look from within and see what might fit. He gets ready pretty quick. Until we get a couple outings from him down there, it's tough to really tell. It might be something that doesn't work out. There's only one way to find out."
Patton heads to disabled list with ankle injury
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles placed left-handed reliever Troy Patton on the 15-day disabled list with a right ankle sprain prior to Tuesday's game.
Patton said the injury occurred Sunday night in the parking garage of his Baltimore apartment, as he rolled his ankle but was able to steady himself. His ankle swelled up overnight and he alerted the team's training staff, who sent him for X-rays -- which came back negative -- during Monday's off-day.
Patton was the Orioles' lone lefty in the 'pen, so Baltimore traded for J.C. Romero on Monday to give manager Buck Showalter another option. Romero took the roster spot of Miguel Socolovich, who was optioned after Sunday's game and designated for assignment on Tuesday. Right-hander Steve Johnson was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take Patton's spot on the active roster and will be available in long relief the next few days.
"[It's] very, very, very frustrating," said Patton, who has a 2.58 ERA in 52 1/3 innings this season. "I haven't felt as good as I've felt recently on the mound my whole career. So it's very frustrating. It's frustrating for this team and the situation we are in.
"We are facing lineups that are heavy left-handed-hitting lineups, and I would be used a lot the next few days. I feel irresponsible that I put our guys in this situation."
Patton seemed pretty confident it would be the minimum 15-day stay on the DL, saying he would be back as soon as possible, which would be Aug. 28. The plan is for him to head to the team's Spring Training facility following Wednesday's team picture day.
Romero, who could have opted out of his deal with Cleveland on Wednesday, spent nearly two months with the Orioles after he was released by the Cardinals in May. But he never made it to the big league club until now, despite pitching well with Norfolk. The 36-year-old posted a 2.74 ERA in 23 Minor League innings this year after posting a 10.13 ERA in 11 games (eight innings) for St. Louis.
"It's not unfamiliar territory for me," Romero said of being the only lefty in a bullpen. "I've been blessed enough to be part of good bullpens in the past. The whole Triple-A experience for me was a very humbling experience, and it kind of opened my eyes a lot. But at the same time, I feel that it was a way of getting my arm back in shape and work hard. When I went to Triple-A, I didn't take anything for granted. I was going at it like I was in the big leagues. I guess it paid off."
Johnson, who was slated to start for Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday, is a candidate to start Friday or Saturday, with Showalter committing only to Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman starting following Wei-Yin Chen. Tommy Hunter would be slated to go after that, but it's not definite.
Hammel throws bullpen session, making progress
BALTIMORE -- In his first bullpen session since undergoing right knee surgery, Jason Hammel threw about 20 pitches Monday, and he said prior to Tuesday's game everything went well.
"[He] feels good, hasn't had any residual swelling from the two times on the bump, so [on] Thursday [we] hope to take it a little further at some point," manager Buck Showalter said of Hammel, who threw on an incline over the weekend. If that goes well, we will set up a [simulated] game."
Hammel, who went 8-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 18 starts despite battling lingering knee issues, will remain with the team and travel on its upcoming six-game road trip while continuing his progression. Showalter said it's important for Hammel, who is still targeting an early September return, to stay together mechanically under the watchful eye of pitching coach Rick Adair to keep him on track until going out on a rehab assignment.
Designated hitter Jim Thome (herniated disk) in currently on the disabled list, but he is still finding ways to help out. Thome went to watch top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy's first start for Double-A Bowie Tuesday, and Showalter said the veteran was really excited about giving him the full scouting report.
Thome will head home to Chicago after Wednesday's team picture, since he's not cleared for baseball activities just yet.
Rule 5 Draft pick Ryan Flaherty (illness) is expected to play in his first rehab game with Triple-A Norfolk sometime this week.
Hitting coach Jim Presley returned to the Orioles on Tuesday after leaving Thursday for a death in the family.
Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver turned 82 on Tuesday.
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.