Thoughts on Matusz, M. Wright, fundamental breakdowns and more

Brian Matusz’s suspension appeal hearing will take place later today in Houston.

The Orioles reliever is seeking a reduction of the eight games handed down by Major League Baseball. I doubt that the entire suspension will melt away, but perhaps he can whittle it.

The club will have to decide whether to go with a six-man bullpen or three-man bench in Matusz’s absence. It could do both, of course, on a game-by-game basis.

They’re likely to start with a short bench.

* Bud Norris could return to the rotation on Sunday, and if that’s the plan, Mike Wright remains the logical starter to be removed.

Wright lasted only five innings for the second consecutive start last night, allowing five runs and eight hits. The 14 1/3 scoreless innings to start his major league career are in the rearview mirror.

The Orioles must decide whether to find a spot for him in the bullpen - which again puts Oliver Drake on thin ice - or return him to Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation for more work.

tommy-hunter-staring-off-gray-sidebar.jpgWright has a bright future, but I’ll state again that it may be as a late-inning reliever. Tommy Hunter is a pending free agent and I know there are people in the organization who can envision Wright sliding into his role, though openings in the rotation also will need to be filled.

Chaz Roe turned in two more scoreless innings last night, with three strikeouts. He’s up to 9 1/3 scoreless innings. He has to stay after Norris comes off the disabled list.

* There’s absolutely no way that Wright was trying to hit Luis Valbuena with two outs in the fifth inning. But it looked bad and that’s why Hall of Fame pitcher and MASN anaylyst Jim Palmer predicted that an Oriole would get drilled later in the game.

The Astros didn’t overreact to it. Good for them. The Blue Jays would have been yapping from the top step of the dugout and an Oriole would have been ducking away from a fastball.

* The Orioles jumped out to a 4-0 lead and stopped hitting. They went 1-for-23 after Travis Snider singled in the second inning.

Just when it appeared that they were going to bust out, they completely shut down. And now they’re a season-worst five games below .500.

The game actually turned on the ground ball in the third inning that took a wicked hop over Steve Pearce’s head. It should have been an inning-ending double play. Instead, the Astros ended up with five runs and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

I had no idea that the Astros held a rodeo on their infield dirt before the game.

Any chance the grounds crew could drag it between innings? Something crazy like that?

* I firmly believe that the Orioles’ record and placement in the standings wouldn’t look quite as bad if they were playing fundamentally sound baseball. I think a lot of fans are giving up on the season - and yes, prematurely on June 3 - because of the mental mistakes.

They don’t instill confidence.

Snider forget the number of outs in the fifth and was doubled off first base on Adam Jones’ fly ball to center field. The play was in front of him, but he had no shot at getting back to the bag as he rounded second.

Showalter told reporters it was “unacceptable.” He can handle a physical mistake, but not the mental variety.

We’ve seen too many baserunning errors and outfielders throwing to the wrong bases. This simply can’t continue.

* How much longer before the next shoe drops? Alejandro De Aza and Ryan Lavarnway were designated for assignment, and more changes could be coming as the offense continues to sputter.

Lavarnway signed a Triple-A deal with the Braves. A handful of teams, including the Blue Jays, have expressed interest in De Aza.

* Showalter seemed encouraged by the results of shortstop J.J. Hardy’s MRI while being interviewed by MASN’s Gary Thorne. However, he couldn’t say with any certainty that Hardy would avoid the disabled list.

Here’s Hardy following the game.

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