Well, so much for finishing the homestand on a high note.
The Orioles tied their season high by hitting into four double plays last night, and the Cardinals completed their first road sweep of the season.
Brian Matusz was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game, a move that couldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Manager Buck Showalter wanted Matusz to work through his issues here, but he needed to see some results. Fastball command and velocity aren’t where they need to be, and the Orioles simply can’t afford to rummage through their bullpen every night.
One quality start by the rotation in the last 13 games is abysmal.
I give Matusz a lot of credit for making lemonade out of his lemons. He sounded eager to reunite with Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin and work through his problems in a less-pressurized environment, while also improving his conditioning with Brady Anderson.
Matusz referenced Griffin more than once while meeting with reporters after the game. He hasn’t been right since spring training, when his mechanics were altered and his mind was scrambled.
Mechanics occupied more of his attention during games than his pitches and the opposing batters.
The young starters really value Griffin’s input. I know the Orioles don’t want to disrupt their farm system, but Griffin seems like a great choice to serve as bullpen coach here. And that’s not a knock on Don Werner or anyone else. It’s just obvious that Griffin has a lot to offer at this level - as long as his presence and tutoring wouldn’t conflict with anything that Rick Adair is doing.
The Orioles like Griffin working with the pitching prospects at Triple-A. Well, maybe he’d improve their chances of staying in the majors.
As I wrote last night, the Orioles will apparently choose a reliever to take Matusz’s next turn. The obvious candidates are Brad Bergesen, Alfredo Simon and Jason Berken. And they’ll call up a reliever from the minors to fill Matusz’s spot on the roster.
The Orioles are likely to favor a left-hander, since they’re down to one in their bullpen after designating Clay Rapada for assignment. Double-A Bowie’s Pedro Viola is on the 40-man roster and he’s joined the Orioles twice this season - though only once in an official capacity. He wasn’t recalled after meeting up with them in Washington.
The Orioles have an opening on their 40-man roster, so Matusz’s replacement doesn’t already need to be on it. Mark Hendrickson was on a serious roll at Norfolk before going on the disabled list with lower-back pain. He’s made one appearance since being activated, allowing two runs and two hits in one inning on Sunday.
I already posted manager Buck Showalter’s comments on Matusz. Here’s the rest:
“There was a game there to be won. I thought they were fortunate because you could tell they were dying to get to get that left-handed reliever (Raul Valdes) in there. We had a guy (Mitchell Boggs) out there who was struggling, we had just three hits off of him and you could tell he was wobbling and we didn’t want to do anything to make that move come for them. Robert (Andino) put a swing right on the button. You can’t fault that. Nolan (Reimold) showed another tool tonight. Coming in, there was a real common excuse there if he wanted to take it, but he didn’t. Proud we had 15, 16 hits, depending on how you’re scoring tonight.”
I wrote last night that Luke Scott was on-deck to hit for Reimold in the eighth inning, but Showalter sent him back to the bench. That’s because Valdes warmed in a hurry and would have come into the game. Showalter wanted a struggling Boggs to stay on the mound, which he did against Reimold, who drove in his fourth run with an infield hit.
“I don’t want to create a move for him (Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa) that allows him to get a guy in the game that he wants to get in the game,” Showalter said. “Just about all his guys over the years have been big left-on-left guys. We were in a real good spot there to get in the game if the ball (by Andino) isn’t hit right at the third baseman.”
It was, which resulted in a double play.
So, Reimold hits a three-run homer and drives in four runs. Michael Gonzalez tosses two scoreless innings. Derrek Lee collects the 1,900th hit of his career. Nick Markakis extends his hitting streak to 19 games. Single-A Frederick manager Orlando Gomez wins his 900th career game.
It wasn’t all bad last night - just most of it.
Maybe Matusz will turn it into something good.