Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz has been working out in Arizona for most of the winter, but he flew to California earlier this month in order to meet new pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.
His early impressions?
“It was great,” Matusz said yesterday during a phone interview. “It was awesome that those guys were able to come out to the West Coast all the way from Florida. It was really good. I played catch. Zach (Britton) and I threw sides off a mound.
“Dom and Dave wanted to get to know us. They talked to us, saying they were here to help us become better pitchers and players. It seems like they came out just to get to know us. That way, when we head to spring training, we’re not unfamiliar. We already know each other and can start a relationship.
“It was cool that they were able to come up here. They said they were here to help us get better and that we’re in it together and they’re here to help us win games. That’s what it’s all about.”
Wallace won’t force his pitching philosophies on his staff. He didn’t show up at the mini-camp or in California to start making wholesale changes.
“I couldn’t be happier with that,” Matusz said. “Every pitcher is different, every guy comes up from a different background with different pitching coaches. Some multiple. They wanted to come in and just see what we have. And I’m sure they’ve done some research and have seen how we’ve pitched in the past and what we’re all about.
“It’s awesome that they wanted to come in and see what we have and make adjustments along the way. Most of the guys in camp have proven themselves to some degree. Their stuff is good enough to make it to the major league level. Now, it’s about maintaining and improving on things to make us better. There’s not one specific way to get the job done. Every guy has his own things that he needs to work on. With their track records, they’ve been around so long and been with so many different pitchers, they understand that.
“It seems like it’s going to be a great deal. I couldn’t be happier with the situation and the setup we have going.”
Wallace is the fifth pitching coach to work with Matusz since he broke into the majors in 2009. It started with Rick Kranitz and continued with Mark Connor, Rick Adair and Bill Castro. It reminds me of a quarterback being subjected to a different offensive coordinator every season.
“Everyone is different,” Matusz said. “They’re all different in their own ways. But ultimately, once you get out on the mound, it’s pitching. But with the situation of having different pitching coaches, sure, it’s been difficult switching back and forth, but it seems like we’re in a good spot now. Dave is a really good guy and obviously Buck (Showalter) and the front office made sure to bring in a good pitching coach. He has a great track record. He seems like a great guy.
“Gosh, I’m pumped for the season. I’m looking forward to working with Dave and picking his brain. He’s worked for so many good pitchers in the past and been part of a World Series team (the Red Sox) in ‘04. He has a great track record. I want to learn as much as I can and pick up things that will click and allow me to get better. That’s the ultimate goal. There are going to be ups and downs during the season. The goal is to learn from the downs and turn them into something positive.
“Things are set up well for us this season. I couldn’t be happier to have Dave and Dom on board.”
Matusz continues to adhere to Brady Anderson’s workout program, implemented a few years ago after the Orioles became dissatisfied with his conditioning.
“I’ve been in touch with him like five times a week about the workouts, and he sends workouts over to me,” Matusz said.
“For the most part, the base of the workouts is the same for all of us. It depends on our weaknesses and strengths, and Brady will incorporate other workouts. For the most part it’s doing our sprint warmups and sprints, and then hitting the weights and doing squats, pullups, pushups. It’s a combination of running and lifting, just to keep it simple.
“For myself personally, the last couple of years working out with Brady, the main emphasis was putting on some muscle mass and getting stronger. Over the years, I’ve been able to gain some strength back and get my velocity back up where it needs to be. This offseason, I’m just continuing to get stronger and get in good shape. Basically, the workouts are designed to help us become better athletes. That’s the overall goal. Help us become more limber, stronger, more flexible, which leads to more confidence on the mound. That’s the base of what we’ve been doing.”