The Orioles brass had discussed the possibility of moving left-hander Brian Matusz to the bullpen for several days, but after left-handed reliever Troy Patton went on the disabled list with a sprined right ankle, the organization is in need of a left-handed reliever who has the capability of throwing multiple innings.
Orioles manager Buck Showater said before Tuesday's series opener against the Red Sox that the Orioles are moving toward experimenting with making the 25-year-old Matusz a reliever.
"If you look at Brian’s numbers over his career here and down below he’s been very effective against left handers," Showalter said. "So I think that’s something you’ll probably see us do here very quickly."
Showalter said Matusz, who is scheduled to make his next start for Triple-A Norfolk, is open to the move. It could get Matusz back to the big leagues faster and it would give the Orioles some left-handed, multiple-inning relief depth.
"We want to let him do it a couple times down there before we consider it an option as far as get up [on] short notice, get ready and come in the game," Showalter said. "I’m gonna be surprised if he can’t do it and do it well. It also would give us some length down there. ... We have to create some options to go to other than outside the organization."
Matusz was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk early last month after going 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 16 starts, but the Orioles believe he's established a resume of success getting left-handed hitters out, which could be best served in the bullpen
Over the course of his major league career, Matusz has held left handers to a .233/.281/384 batting line as well as a 4.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This season, he held major leaguers to a .174/.237/.302 line.
And once it became clear Patton was heading to the DL, the Orioles urgently re-acquired left hander J.C. Romero to serve as the sole lefty bullpen arm, so there's a serious need there.
"When you have three or four right-handed starters, you really’d like to have a left-handed guy capable of pitching multiple innings because the lineup is going to be primarily left and you have the opportunity to get back in the ballgame with somebody like that," Showalter said. "I would be surprised if Brian couldn’t do it.
"And the other part is he will embrace it, I think," Showalter added. "We’ll see. It’s where we are. We’re going to look from within and see. It might fit. It’s something we’ve been talking about for the last week or two. ... Until we get a couple outings of him down there, it’s going to be tough to tell. It might be something that doesn’t work out. There’s only one way to find out."
It's unclear how many relief apparances Matusz would need until he's would be deemed ready to join the Orioles as a reliever, but Showalted indicated it might only take a couple of outings.