Matusz will work out as a starter at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, and he’s gotten a head start this winter.
“That’s the plan,” he said earlier today. “This offseason, I’ve been long-tossing and stretching it out a bit.”
He’s also been working on his changeup to better defend himself against right-handed batters, who hit .302 against him last season and are hitting .305 in his career. Lefties hit .168 last year and are hitting .208 against him, which has forced him into a specialist’s role in the bullpen.
“That’s the most important thing as a starter, being able to compete better against right-handed hitters and getting that changeup going,” Matusz said. “That’s the plan going into spring training, to be able to start, and I’m pressing for that now. I’m looking forward to getting on that five-day rotation and competing for a rotation spot.”
Matusz is 21-33 with a 5.51 ERA and 1.556 WHIP in 68 major league starts, and 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA and 1.041 WHIP in 83 relief appearances. However, he went 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA in 32 starts in 2010 before the bottom fell out the following season, leaving him 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts and punching his ticket to the minors.
Matusz drew the ire of manager Buck Showalter for his inability to hold runners, a flaw that has been corrected. Now he’s working on those splits.
Left-hander Troy Patton must serve a 25-game suspension to begin the season, so Matusz’s removal from the bullpen would open up two spots for southpaw relievers. Does Patton’s situation create a major complication for Matusz?
“Buck and Dan (Duquette) have done a good job of stacking up the left-handed arms, going out and making some moves this offseason and getting some guys. We definitely have a lot of options with guys on the team and guys on the roster,” Matusz said.
“For me, my mindset is I want to be a starter. That’s pretty well-known by everybody. But the moves that the front office makes and Buck makes are out of my control. For me, it’s being able to prepare and be ready for camp and compete for a spot, and we’ll see how it plays out.”