What are the chances that he makes it two in a row?
Ortiz is 1-for-20 with 12 strikeouts against Matusz. They’re bound to meet again - if not tonight or this series, maybe in Boston later this month.
Matusz pitched to one batter on opening day and retired A.J. Pierzynski on an 0-2 changeup to strand two runners in the eighth inning. Pierzynski bounced to the mound, with Matusz making a nice grab.
The significance of that moment goes beyond how Matusz protected a 2-1 lead. Manager Buck Showalter challenged the former first-round pick to improve his defense, and he’s done it. Same with holding runners. And Matusz got the out with a pitch that he’s been working hard to refine.
Showalter put Matusz on a starter’s schedule again in spring training, knowing that another bullpen assignment loomed. Matusz yearns to get back in the rotation, but a spot would have needed to open up. And the loss of left-hander Troy Patton, serving a 25-game suspension, further ensured that Matusz would remain a reliever.
Stretching out Matusz in camp still made sense.
“We wanted Brian to get the feel for his changeup back and start,” Showalter said. “If we had an injury or some trade had happened or something, Brian ... Because nobody had a better spring than him with the exception of maybe Zach (Britton). So, with Troy being out, we wanted to make sure that we had a feel for the left-handed part of that, especially with four right-handed starters. And making sure you have length.”
Matusz could give it to them. He could, if nothing else, tear off the lefty specialist label and provide more innings with better splits.
“Dave (Wallace) and I will ask ourselves every day, ‘Walk out here and Tilly (Chris Tillman) gets hit in the kneecap with the first pitch of the game with a line drive, where are you going?’ You’ve always got to have that answer when you leave the clubhouse every day,” Showalter said.
Josh Stinson is the primary long man in the bullpen, though it’s not exclusively his domain.
“There are a lot of guys who are capable of doing it, but what do you have after that happens? You don’t have them for two or three days,” Showalter said.
“We know Stinson is the primary guy, but we also on a given day early in the season could do Zach or Brian. You can’t use them both long, because then you don’t have a left-hander out of the ‘pen. So, initially, Stinson.”