Taking another look at Matusz and maneuverability (arbitration note)

I don’t have information on all of the forums at FanFest, but I do know that Brian Matusz is participating in one that features a group of Orioles relievers.

This doesn’t mean that Matusz is assured of being assigned to the bullpen on opening day. He’s going to work out as a starter in spring training. But he ended 2012 as a reliever and that’s how he’ll enter FanFest.

Matusz was 6-10 with a 4.87 ERA in 34 games last year. He posted a 5.42 ERA as a starter and a 1.35 ERA as a reliever.

Matusz Throws White tall.jpgIt’s the splits that have always intrigued the Orioles. Left-handers batted .175/.230/.298 against Matusz last year. Right-handers batted .327/.394/.537. In his career, left-handers are batting .219/.276/.376, and right-handers are batting .305/.370./.499.

Matusz made it back to the majors last season because he was willing to change roles. He found the shortest path, and he thrived as a lefty specialist.

“If you look at the numbers, his whole career, and we went back to almost high school, his left-on-left numbers have always been outstanding,” manager Buck Showalter said Saturday.

“It was an opportunity for Brian to engage in the success of the ballclub. I’m not saying he felt left out. It’s not like he never pitched a good game, but it was a way for him to feel like he was a contributor and there was a role for him. It was intriguing watching him last year, and his competitiveness.”

Showalter likes what he calls his “maneuverable bullpen,” where most of the pitchers have minor league options remaining.

“If you get an optionable bullpen, then you can move pieces in and out without somebody else having a chance to claim him off waivers,” Showalter said.

“Right now, we’ve got a maneuverable bullpen and maneuverable starters. When you trade a guy - without mentioning names - who has options, that’s a valuable piece because they’re all looking for somebody that they don’t have to pay much who has options and has a bright future. We’ve got a lot of them.

“When we look at, for instance, (Luis) Martinez, the catcher that we picked up off waivers, he has an option. We could send him up and down. (Luis) Exposito has an option. You’ve got to attack the what-ifs. If something happens with (Taylor) Teagarden or (Matt) Wieters, anywhere in the infield. (Ryan) Flaherty now has three options, though he’s going to have a chance to make our club.

“To do the things that we did last year with the team, we had to have that ability to move guys around.”

Tommy Hunter, who agreed to terms on a one-year, $1.82 million contract yesterday, is out of options and can’t easily be moved around. It will be interesting to see what happens to him this spring. He was more effective in relief last season - there was a noticeable increase in his velocity - but will Showalter be comfortable with a guy who isn’t maneuverable?

Note: The Orioles will make their first appearance on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” since 2008 when they travel to the Bronx to play the New York Yankees on April 14.

Note II: The seven remaining eligible Orioles filed for salary arbitration today, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association: Matusz, Chris Davis, Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, Troy Patton and Matt Wieters.

To cut through any confusion, all seven players are under team control for 2013. It’s just a matter of determining their salaries. It’s one of the more over-hyped stories of the winter.

The Orioles obviously will attempt to avoid going to arbitration hearings and risking hurt feelings. Executive vice president Dan Duquette already has reached agreements with Nolan Reimold and Tommy Hunter on one-year deals. More signings will follow.

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