Matusz providing relief in a role he doesn’t relish

Could the umpiring have been any worse last night? Not to mention the official scorer.

OK, I just mentioned him.

You know it’s bad when a pitching coach, in this case Oakland’s Curt Young, comes out of the dugout for a mound visit and instead yells at the first base umpire, who ejected him. Young never did talk to Jarrod Parker. I hadn’t seen that happen before last night.

Did it count as a mound visit?

Brian Matusz never made it to the mound last night. Two other left-handers, Troy Patton and T.J. McFarland, covered the last three innings.

Matusz inherted 14 runners last season. None of them scored. He’s inherited 10 this season. None of them scored.

Detect a pattern here?

Matusz inherited a bases-loaded mess from closer Jim Johnson Wednesday afternoon and induced a ground ball from Toronto’s Rajai Davis. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that Matusz had been a starter until going to the bullpen last summer. He’s used to entering games with the bases clean, and right before the anthem.

“It’s the same thing as a starter,” Matusz said, politely shooting down my theory that it’s a different feel. “When you’re starting and guys are on base, you want to keep them there. Regardless of being in a relief role or a starting role, the object of the game is to score more runs than the other team, and that’s the idea, to keep them from scoring.

“I remember as a starting pitcher my whole life, leaving a game and feeling hopeless, having guys out there on base. Sometimes, those guys score and you don’t want those guys to score, so I really take a lot of pride in going out there and doing everything I can to make quality pitches and keep those guys stranded.

“These starting pitchers we have, they go out there day in and day out and they bust their butts and they pitch well. All of us in the bullpen, not just myself, we all take pride in stranding those guys and helping those starting pitchers out and helping us win a ballgame. That’s what our job is and we take a lot of pride in that.”

The starters always show their appreciation for Matusz’s handy work. “Every single time,” he said.

“We’ve got such a great group of guys here. Every time it happens, they’ll say ‘Thank you.’ Even (Tuesday), coming out of the ballgame, and Stropy (Pedro Strop) stranded a runner for me. It’s just returning the favor on an individual level. But the big picture is we want to win a ballgame and keep those guys from scoring.”

Matusz is extremely valuable in his current role, but make no mistake, he’d much rather be a starting pitcher. This change hasn’t been easy on him, though he certainly makes it look that way. He’s in full what’s-best-for-the-team mode, but it’s got to gnaw at him each time the Orioles bypass him for another starter - Josh Stinson on Wednesday, Zach Britton or Freddy Garcia on Monday.

“There’s nothing I can do,” Matusz said. “I don’t think there’s any secret out there, but my job right now is to be a reliever and I’m going to take a lot of pride in it, have fun with it, go out and pitch and do everything I can to help contribute to this ballclub to win ballgames.”

blog comments powered by Disqus