SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz is back on the bump today, making his fourth Grapefruit League appearance in a 1:05 p.m. game against the Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium. He most recently tossed five innings in a minor league game.
Jake Peavy is starting for the Red Sox, who also are bringing former Orioles left-hander Rich Hill.
Manny Machado will find more reporters gathered at his locker this morning, seeking his reaction to the Orioles’ decision to place him on the 15-day disabled list before they break camp. Executive vice president Dan Duquette also will field questions before we get on with our lives and the next intriguing storyline.
Machado, outfielder Francisco Peguero and reliever Edgmer Escalona will be placed on the DL, removing them from a camp roster that currently holds 41 players. Troy Patton also will come off while serving his 25-game suspension.
Kudos to manager Buck Showalter for making the announcement yesterday and ending the speculation. Machado still hasn’t played in a game. He just started running. The calf became more of an issue than the knee. There’s absolutely no reason to rush the kid and risk losing him for an extended period.
This isn’t the NFL and a 16-game regular season. The Orioles will play 162 of them. They can get by with Ryan Flaherty at the hot corner and Jonathan Schoop or Jemile Weeks at second. Alex Gonzalez or Alexi Casilla can move around the infield and offer assistance.
Showalter noted after yesterday’s game how Schoop committed an error in the eighth inning while charging a grounder from Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez, then ranged far to his left to field Jordy Mercer’s bouncer and record the out.
“Came back and made a great play after that,” Showalter said. “Those are things you look for.”
Showalter made a comparison between Schoop and starter Kevin Gausman, who surrendered a leadoff home run to Starling Marte, walked Travis Snider and gave up a double to Andrew McCutchen, then struck out the next three batters. Adversity faced, rally extinguished.
“It’s encouraging most of the time Gaus cocks his arm, but he came back and made a lot of good pitches,” Showalter said.
“He’s going to get that a lot. He got it at Yankee Stadium last year. They ambush him early. Guys can turn around a bullet up here. But he’s getting a better feel for slowing guys down.”
Gausman also is better at blending with his own guys, no longer feeling like the young outsider in his own clubhouse.
“He seems a lot more comfortable,” Showalter said. “He’s not carrying the donuts around and having to carry the gum bags. He knows that he’s graduated a little bit. At some point, he’ll be able to take the next step.”
Gausman could make a substantial leap if he continues to refine his slider.
“He threw a quality one to a good hitter (Marte),” Showalter said. “He came back and made some good pitches to him.”
Asked whether we’ve seen the last of Gausman this spring, Showalter replied, “We’re not there yet. There’s good competition going down to the wire.”
I still don’t see how Gausman sticks unless Duquette pulls off a trade and creates an opening in the rotation.
Josh Stinson should fill one of the bullpen spots unless he’s traded.
Stinson has benefited from a suggestion offered up by bullpen coach Dom Chiti, who’s made a positive impression on the right-hander, along with pitching coach Dave Wallace.
“They’re not the type of guys who are going to push anything on you and tell you that you have to do it. They’re going to sit back and study you,” Stinson said.
“The first two weeks I was here, they just sat back and studied me. About 2 1/2 weeks in, Dom says, ‘Hey, try leaning up a little bit with your chest.’ At the beginning of camp, I was really leaned over. He’s like, ‘Try an inch, an inch and a half.’ It’s something I didn’t even realize I was doing. Just one of those things you get in the repetition of doing and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. It’s one of those things where I go, ‘That’s where I was.’
“They’re the type of guys who sit back and study you. Then, if they bring something to do, it’s not, ‘Hey, you have to do this.’ It’s going to be a suggestion and you talk about it together. You try it, and if it doesn’t feel good, it’s not going to hurt their feelings. They’re just trying to help you from what they see.
“It’s been awesome. Very open guys, tell you what they think. There’s no beating around the bush. The two of them together, I don’t know that I’ve had two pitching coaches who’ve had the knowledge that they have. And the type of guys they had in Atlanta. It’s been a pleasure working with them, for sure.”
It’s a source of amusement for Showalter and the staff that Wallace and Chiti get along so well while having such different personalities.
“Dom’s a little louder and Dave just kind of sits there and observes. But you get Dave by himself, he’ll talk to you,” Stinson said. “They’re polar opposites, but they work well together and compliment each other real well.”