Thoughts on Gregg, Matusz and more

I would guess if you put it to a vote right now among the fan base, it might be almost unanimous that the club should now cut ties with reliever Kevin Gregg, even if the Orioles have to eat all of his 2012 salary.

The 2011 season was bad for him, but it’s started worse this season. He allowed six straight batters to reach yesterday turning a 3-2 deficit that the Orioles could possibly overcome into an 8-2 game that was now pretty much out of reach.

The Orioles clearly have better options than Gregg and it doesn’t seem like they have much chance to move him in a deal. We’ll see if the O’s brass agrees with the fan sentiment here or if they give the struggling reliever more time to try to turn it around.

Meanwhile, Brian Matusz has an 0-2 record and 8.38 ERA so far. But saying he has not improved over last year would be just wrong at this point.

He is a much better pitcher right now and needs to be. He’s closer to being the Matusz we saw once pitch very well in the majors, but he clearly is not quite there yet.

He threw some very nice secondary pitches Sunday - especially with his curveball - but also some poor ones. The curve that Edwin Encarnacion hit out just hung up in the zone way too much and lacked bite.

Matusz really seemed to be critical of himself in MASN’s “O’s Xtra” postgame interview. I don’t know whether that is a good or bad thing. He clearly feels he needs to get better and took accountability for a less-than-stellar outing. But did he show that he is lacking confidence and too down on himself right now to pitch better in his next start?

It has been a strange start to this year for Nick Markakis. He homers on opening day and goes 5-for-7 in the first two games with two homers. But since then, he is just 2-for-25 over the last seven games with just one RBI. He has gone hitless in six of the first nine games. I still think we’ll see Markakis with more run production this season than in 2011.

Adam Jones still looks like he should be the cleanup hitter on this team. Jones is batting .343 with three homers and four RBIs on the year. He went 5-for-11 in Toronto and the ball he crushed yesterday (a 452-foot shot) may have just landed sometime this morning.

I know Jones did not come through in a couple of key at-bats so far late in games, but I will repeat what I feel about that. He will begin to thrive in those situations as the season goes on and by mid-year (if not sooner), the Orioles may well approach him about extending his contract.

Maybe they have waited so far to keep Jones’ drive and intensity up to begin this year, but I don’t see him as a player that needed any fire lit under him. Maybe Dan Duquette is just waiting for some other reason.

By the trade deadline, if Jones doesn’t have an extension, it’s time to seriously consider what he could bring in a trade and just how many young prospects he could bring in a deal. It’s not my preferred result here - I’d rather see him signed long-term and stay around - but they have to eventually do one or the other. Keep him or move him. The time for action is coming.

Some stats to ponder:

* Orioles starting pitchers recorded three quality starts in the first three games, but have none since. There has been some well-pitched games in that time, but just no quality starts since the third game.

Orioles team ERA by series:
1.00 vs. Minnesota
4.35 vs. New York
5.19 at Toronto

* The Orioles have homered in eight of nine games and have 14 on the season. They have hit 11 solo homers and three two-run shots. They hit seven homers in the Toronto series. O’s homers have accounted for 17 of the club’s 40 runs scored to date.

* Chris Davis went 5-for-7 in the last two games of the Blue Jays series. He had two doubles and a homer in the games after entering Saturday batting .211. He is now hitting .346.

* The Orioles went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the past two games and 3-for-17 in the series. They are batting .179 on the year at 12-for-67 when hitting with RISP.

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