BALTIMORE -- In his fourth start for Triple-A Norfolk, left-hander Brian Matusz continued to improve, pitching seven innings without giving up a run on three hits and striking out eight, while walking two. The 24-year-old threw 88 pitches, 53 of which were strikes.
Matusz, who was demoted to Norfolk on June 30, lowered his 2011 Minor League ERA to 2.18, but was unable to record his first win, as the Tides gave up two runs in the 11th frame to lose 4-3 against the Gwinett Braves.
"Each outing seems to have gotten a little better, so that's encouraging," manager Buck Showalter said of Matusz's performance in Norfolk. "He just needs to continue to make progress to be an option to come back [to Baltimore]. He's got to get back to being able to defend himself and giving us a chance to win, which he wasn't able to do when he left. Looking at all those guys in Triple-A and Double-A as options for us, and Brian is one of them. If he does the things he's capable of doing, that increases his chance of coming back."
After coming off the disabled list in June, Matusz struggled with the Orioles, compiling a 1-4 record with an 8.77 ERA. His poor starts culminated in his sixth outing of the season on June 30 against the Cardinals, when Matusz lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up eight earned runs on nine hits.
In addition to Matusz, starters Zach Britton and Chris Tillman are also attempting to work their way back into the Orioles starting rotation through their work in the Minors.
Britton, who will likely be called back up to Baltimore by July 30, pitched three innings for Double-A Bowie on Friday, allowing one earned run -- a solo home run -- on two hits with two strikeouts and no walks. Britton is expected to throw three or four innings in Bowie again on Wednesday.
Tillman, who was sent down to Norfolk on June 1 to make room for Matusz, is 3-2 for the Tides with a 4.12 ERA. In his last start on July 15, the right-hander gave up two earned runs on three hits in six innings.