ST. PETERSBURG — — Brian Matusz is trying to quell his enthusiasm, but he passed another test on Friday and finally will pitch in an affiliated game next week for the first time this season.
"It's not hard for me to pump myself up and get excited. I am excited. I've been excited for a while," said Matusz, who has been sidelined since the season began with an intercostal muscle strain.
"It's been tough these last few weeks, being in Sarasota, going out there and feeling good every day," he said. "It's been tough because I feel good, I feel healthy, I feel strong, and I want to get out there, but I realize this is my spring training process to get myself ready, so I've got to be able to calm it down a little bit and not get too ahead of myself."
On Friday afternoon, Matusz threw a side session of about 38 pitches in front of bullpen coach Rick Adair at Tropicana Field. He used all of his pitches and said he is ready for the next step.
That will be a four-inning stint on Monday at Class A Frederick, where Matusz made his professional debut in 2009. If that goes well, Matusz will then pitch on May 21 at either Triple-A Norfolk or Double-A Bowie and is expected to go five or six innings. It likely will be in Norfolk, unless the weather report is better for Bowie, said Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
It's possible, Showalter said, Matusz could be activated to pitch for the Orioles at the end of May. That will depend on how he feels, how long he pitches and how effective he is in the two upcoming rehab starts.
"I think he realizes, too, coming back available to pitch five innings is not good for him or our bullpen or our team," Showalter said. "So if things continue to progress and he pitches well and he is healthy, then we'll bring him back ready to go six or seven innings. … I don't think he will be considered until he is ready to go six or more innings and we feel like he'll be effective enough to defend himself."
Rookie lefty Zach Britton had the best game of his brief big-league career on Thursday, throwing nine shutout innings against the Seattle Mariners and allowing just three hits. He struck out five, walked none and threw a career-high 108 pitches
But Britton's older brother, Buck, had a pretty impressive day himself for Class-A Frederick. The second baseman had a two-run homer in the first inning and a three-run double in the second for five RBIs, which accounted for all of the Keys' runs in a 5-4 victory over Lynchburg.
The Frederick game finished first, so Buck texted his little brother first with this message: "Nice outing. But I had five RBIs."
So which was more impressive, five RBIs in two at-bats at High A or nine shutout innings in the show?
"What was the better moment? My brother thinks it was the five RBIs," Zach Britton joked. "That's pretty impressive. I think it was a good night either way."
Thursday night was also an interesting night, for several reasons:
•There were no extra-base hits in the Orioles' 2-1 win in 12 innings, which was scoreless during the first 11. The last extra-innings game in the majors with no extra-base hits was July 29, 2009 when the Pirates lost to San Francisco in 10 innings and the last game that went 12 or more innings with no extra-base hits was May 17, 2007 when the Giants won at Houston, 2-1.
•The Mariners didn't have a runner in scoring position until the 10th inning. It was the Orioles' first win at home this season when scoring fewer than four runs (now 1-11).
•From the 4th inning Wednesday through the 3rd inning Thursday, a span of eight innings, the Orioles hit into six double plays.
Around the horn
Right-hander Justin Duchscherer (left hip) threw 26 pitches, 23 for strikes, in two innings in an extended spring training game. He is expected to throw a three-inning stint in the next five or six days. … DH Vladimir Guerrero received a day off Friday, just the second time he hasn't started in 37 games this season. Showalter said Guerrero's off-day provided another opportunity to get Felix Pie in a game. Pie started in left and Luke Scott was the DH. … C Matt Wieters will get the day off Saturday. … Ravens third-round pick, offensive lineman Jah Reid, who played at the University of Central Florida, was at Tropicana Field on Friday and was given an Orioles' hat, which he immediately put on backwards and wore on the field pre-game. … The Rays honored the death of three St. Petersburg police officers who were killed within a week this year in the line of duty by retiring their call numbers, which are posted beyond the center field wall.