If you took a fan vote and asked which O’s starter is the best pitcher of the bunch, I bet Brian Matusz would win the vote.
He sure ended last year doing a lot of winning on the field. After he picked up just three wins in his first 21 starts through the end of July, the 24-year-old lefty won seven of his final 11 starts of 2010.
Matusz went 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA in his final 10 starts after Buck Showalter took over as manager and was 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA over his final eight starts. The Orioles went 8-0 in those games and they beat in order Texas, Chicago, Boston, New York, Toronto, Boston, Tampa and Detroit.
That is one impressive finish to a season. But Matusz cannot exactly pinpoint the reason for his improvement late in the year.
“Just learning and improving,” he said Saturday at FanFest. “That’s what this game is all about, making adjustments. The hitters are always making adjustments, so the pitcher needs to as well. Every start you try to learn about yourself and do everything you can to keep improving.”
Matusz said it was easy to sense the optimism surrounding the 2011 Orioles.
“Absolutely, you can see it with everyone. It seems like a team and we are all real comfortable right now,” Matusz said.
He was asked what fans should expect from this year’s Orioles team.
“They should expect us to be ready to go out there and compete. We know we’ll have a lot of fun and we know we have the talent. We have to make it happen. There is a lot of excitement on the player’s end and I hope it is there from the fans as well,” Matusz said.
You wouldn’t think Matusz needs to add any pitches and he said he hasn’t and that he has just continued to work to refine the four he uses now.
More on Matusz:
* The southpaw went 5-4 with a 3.13 ERA in 13 starts last summer versus Boston, New York and Tampa.
* Since he was drafted fourth overall in 2008, Matusz has pitched 113 innings in the minors and 220 1/3 in the major leagues.
* Last season he was 3-9 with a 4.77 ERA and a .273 batting average against before the All-Star break and 7-3 with a 3.63 ERA and a .228 average against in 14 starts after.
* Matusz may be proof that a fly ball pitcher can succeed at Camden Yards. His ratio of groundball to air outs last year was 0.75.
* In 2010, he led American League rookies in innings, strikeouts and starts and was second in opponents average and wins and third in ERA.
* He was the AL rookie of the month for August, going 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA over six starts.
How much improvement can Matusz make this season from his overall numbers of 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA last year? Has he now become a top-of-rotation starter? Will he be the O’s opening day starter in April?