CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Orioles blanked another opponent today, getting four scoreless innings from Brian Matusz, three from Alfredo Simon and one each from Oscar Villarreal and Miguel Socolovich in a 1-0 victory over the Phillies.
Matusz’s fastball was clocked anywhere from 87 mph to 94 mph. He made huge strides from his initial outing in terms of command.
“He threw well today,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I’d say if the highlight of camp was (Nolan) Reimold’s jaw not being broken, that might have been second today. You see his tempo, his arm, really throwing the ball downhill. That was good.”
Showalter isn’t obsessed with the radar gun readings, saying, “Just watch the hitters. It’s not about velocity with him.” However, when the subject was brought up again, he said, “I think that would help him just a little bit. He’s put so much into the offseason since the last pitch was thrown, so if he gets some really big-time return for that, it bodes well for his future and career. If he doesn’t get a return for it, it’s like, ‘Why did I do all that for?’ I’ve got it.
“From that standpoint, heck yeah, I’m in. I want to see him get some returns. When they’re doing the right things, you want to see them get some returns for them.”
Is Matusz gaining confidence?
“Maybe,” Showalter said. “There was a lot of room for improvement from his last outing. But each one is another step for him.”
Matusz lasted four innings because his pitch count stood at 37 after the third.
“Some of these guys, we’d extend them if they could get there with the pitch count,” Showalter said.
Simon allowed two hits, walked none and struck out three. He hasn’t permitted a run in five spring innings.
“He’s been solid,” Showalter said. “That’s why he’s in the mix.”
Chris Davis hit the first spring home run for the Orioles.
“I was just telling J.R. (John Russell) in the dugout when (Davis) was going up to hit, ‘I’d really like to see Chris backside some balls here sometime,’” Showalter said. “He had a little hook action going with his bat. About that time, he hit it, and (Russell) said, ‘Like that?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, like that.’
“The wind wasn’t a factor there, was it?”
Showalter said Davis has “the presence” to be the cleanup hitter.
“He’s one of the guys who’s in the mix for it,” Showalter said, “but if we don’t have somebody who really grasps it and runs with it, we’ll have to move it around. I’d rather not do that. I think that’s more of a challenge for us than the leadoff spot. I’ve said that all along. That is a guy who’s always going to be hitting in that portion of your lineup. Things that happen before him dictates his at-bats, where as the leadoff guy is a whole different cat. You can lead off a guy and actually have a guy hitting ninth who can do the same thing.
“The good thing about Chris is he handles left-handed pitching pretty well. He’s not a guy who’s a big advantage for the other team against left-handed pitching.”
NOTE: The Oriole renewed the contract of catcher Matt Wieters after the two sides couldn’t reach agreement, and they also signed 17 other players to one-year deals: Ryan Adams, Jake Arrieta, Josh Bell, Jason Berken, Zach Britton, Chris Davis, Oliver Drake, Ryan Flaherty, Tommy Hunter, Joe Mahoney, Troy Patton, Zach Phillips, Nolan Reimold, Alfredo Simon, Pedro Strop, Taylor Teagarden and Chris Tillman.
All of the Orioles are now under contract for 2012.
This is standard stuff in spring training. These players were under team control and not eligible for arbitration.