No game, no pain

I realize that the Orioles were off Thursday, but today’s open date is a blessing and comes at a most opportune time. They’ll need at least 48 hours to regroup.

Yesterday’s loss left a stench.

The Orioles didn’t pitch, they didn’t field the ball and they didn’t make smart choices on the basepaths. The only good news is it counts as one loss.
I’ve tried to rid myself of the memory by diving into a base, but I’m not lucky enough to develop concussion symptoms.

Derrek Lee will come off the bereavement list and join the team in Toronto, and his defense at first base has been sorely missed. That’s not a knock on Brandon Snyder or Luke Scott, but Lee is a run reducer, as manager Buck Showalter termed it.

Mark Reynolds apparently has avoided the disabled list after taking a vicious shot off his left forearm, but his defense is deteriorating. He’s got 14 errors, more than anyone in the league. He’s been caught between hops and handcuffed. He airmailed a throw in the ninth inning of Friday night’s game after fielding a routine bouncer.

Hitters slump. Pitchers slump. And yes, infielders slump.

It might seem like I’m picking on Felix Pie, and that’s not my intention. He can be an electrifying player, and he ran down a couple of fly balls yesterday that other left fielders would have been picking up at the base of the fence. But he has to make smarter decisions.

Why on earth would he try to steal second base with the Orioles down by three runs in the eighth inning? He didn’t get a sign from the dugout. He ran on his own.

If it happens again, he might want to keep running down Pratt Street in full uniform and avoid going near the manager’s office. That would be a smart decision.

None of these things can equal the concerns attached to Brian Matusz.

Reynolds has gone on a home run binge, which can serve as a handy distraction from the defensive miscues. Pie is an extra outfielder, not a part of the everyday lineup. But Matusz was supposed to be the No. 2 starter and a budding ace.

His velocity and command haven’t returned. It’s a process, but Showalter said he expected Matusz to be farther along after the left-hander’s stay at extended spring training, four minor league rehab starts and three major league outings.

Showalter didn’t commit to giving Matusz another start this week. Could he be headed back to the disabled list? To Triple-A Norfolk? Could Brad Bergesen, coming off a complete-game shutout with the Tides, take Matusz’s place in the rotation?

Could Matusz be given another chance?

One thing is certain: Matusz has to do a better job of holding runners.

He worked on it at spring training and seemed pleased with the results, but the Rays ran wild on him. Catcher Craig Tatum had to eat the ball so many times, he’s still flossing the stitches out of his teeth.

As I noted yesterday, Showalter seemed more upset about Matusz’s lack of attention to this detail than the mid-80s fastballs and hittable pitches.

I’ll wonder again how the Orioles are only three games under .500. And I’ll consider them lucky that they can’t fall four below tonight.

There’s no game on the schedule. There’s more time for that stench to clear.

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