OAKLAND, Calif. — — In four more days, Brian Matusz's wait will likely be over.
A day after Matusz allowed one earned run in five-plus innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk, he rejoined the major league club and Orioles manager Buck Showalter said the lefty will probably make his 2011 big league debut Wednesday, starting the road trip and series finale against the Seattle Mariners. The only hurdle left is a bullpen session Sunday.
"There's a good chance that will happen if things go well [Sunday]," Showalter said. "He hasn't had any problems at all. We feel like he's going to be ready to go."
Projected to be the team's No.2 starter when the season began, Matusz has been on the disabled list retroactive to March 30 because of a strained left intercostal muscle.
In three rehab starts — one at Single-A Frederick, one at Double-A Bowie and Friday's start for Norfolk — Matusz compiled a 1.80 ERA. He allowed two earned runs on nine hits and four walks while striking out 10 over 15 innings.
"It's been a long tough road," said Matusz, who was all smiles as he hauled his suitcase and equipment bag into the visiting clubhouse here. "The DL hasn't been fun. If everything feels good, and it should feel good, I'm lined up to pitch Wednesday. That's the plan. I'm really excited. Right now I'm still focusing on getting ready for Wednesday. I feel good today. I don't feel as sore this time around as I did after the start in Bowie. There are a lot of emotions going on right now. It was a long trip cross-country. I'm just happy to be here in the clubhouse. I'm excited to get back in my old routine."
Matusz, 24, said he made huge strides in his outing at Norfolk. He threw 83 pitches, 53 for strikes, and Showalter said that the reports were that Matusz's stuff got better as the game moved on.
"It was being able to relax and be myself and not putting any extra added pressure on myself, and I was able to be loose and make adjustments during the game and really take control," Matusz said. "That's something I felt like I didn't have a grasp on yet. I didn't feel like I was ready. And I was able to do that last night. I feel good and I feel healthy and I'm excited to get on a routine now. We wanted to take all the right steps to get me back here healthy and as fast as I could. I think we did all the right things."
Showalter said that Matusz, who went 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA In 32 starts for the Orioles last year, would be able to throw as many as 100 pitches Wednesday.
"He wants to get going with his season," Showalter said. "We want him to get going. He's bouncing off the walls. I think as he pitches and gets some of that out of him, he'll get back to his old self."
Viola on the scene
Trying to protect a bullpen that had logged 8 2/3 innings over the previous two days, the Orioles summoned Double-A Bowie left-hander Pedro Viola to Oakland today. Viola, a 27-year-old who is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 17 relief appearances for the Baysox, has not been officially recalled and may not be depending on how much the bullpen is needed Saturday night.
But with the team on the West Coast, making it difficult to get reinforcements quickly, team officials opted to have Viola fly out to California and join the club.
Even if he is recalled, Viola, who pitched in two games for the Orioles last September, could be in for a short stay. One option is the left-hander replacing either Brad Bergesen or Chris Tillman on the roster for three days and then being optioned back to Bowie on Wednesday when Matusz is activated.
For the short term and on short notice, Viola made the most sense because he is on the 40-man roster, and he hasn't pitched since Tuesday. Chris Jakubauskas, who is also on the 40-man and has two stints with the club already this season, pitched seven innings on Thursday. Troy Patton, who cleared waivers on Thursday, wasn't expected to report back to Triple-A Norfolk until Saturday or Sunday. Jason Berken hasn't been down in the minors for the required 10 days yet and the team wants him to get a couple of starts under his belt before he's summoned back to the big leagues.
Interesting lineup for O's
Looking to get as many right-handed bats into Saturday night's lineup as possible against Oakland left-hander Josh Outman, Showalter gave regular third baseman Mark Reynolds the start at first base. It was his first start there since 2009, when he made 24 starts there for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"I'm going to go wing it," joked Reynolds who leads major league third basemen with nine errors. "We will see what happens. I'm just going to catch the ball that's thrown to me. I think it's going to be fun. Change it up a little bit."