Matusz navigates through early trouble (updated twice)

SARASOTA, Fla. - The first four Tigers reached base against Brian Matusz in the top of the first inning today, and the Orioles’ left-hander didn’t get back into the dugout until he had surrendered three runs and thrown 32 pitches.

Matusz’s pitch count rose to 52 after the second inning and 71 after the third, but the Tigers didn’t score again. He threw only five pitches, all strikes in the fourth.

Another positive note: Matusz’s fastball reached 93 mph in the third inning. He hit 92 mph at least six times in the first.

Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch singled to begin the game, and they both scored on Miguel Cabrera’s double. Don Kelly followed with a single before Matusz induced a double play grounder from Delmon Young that plated Cabrera.

Tigers left-hander Duane Below walked four batters in the second inning, including Robert Andino with the bases loaded. Adam Jones hit his fourth spring home run leading off the third, and the Orioles tied the game in the fourth on a Wilson Betemit single, a balk and Endy Chavez’s single to center field.

Chavez hadn’t played since March 21 because of a groin injury.

Matusz is still on the mound as we begin the top of the fifth. He’s allowed three runs and five hits, walked one and struck out four. He’s thrown 76 pitches, 53 for strikes.

The Tigers lost catcher Gerald Laird to an apparent knee injury in the second inning. Laird was camped under the ball on a foul pop up by Jai Miller when Kelly, the Tigers’ first baseman, plowed into him. Laird held onto the ball and was writhing in pain before being helped into the clubhouse. It appeared that Laird twisted his right knee.

Update: Matusz is done after five innings. He retired the last nine batters he faced and threw 86 pitches, 57 for strikes. He allowed three runs and five hits, walked one and struck out four. Nice recovery.

Now we’ve got back-to-back Pat Neshek, who got the save last night in Tampa. He’s on the mound again today.

Update II: Neskek retired both batters he faced before Troy Patton replaced him. Neshek hasn’t allowed a run in 10 appearances covering nine innings this spring. Hasn’t walked anyone, either.

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