BALTIMORE -- Seeking an internal solution for a multi-inning lefty, the Orioles are going to try starter Brian Matusz in the bullpen, with plans for the 25-year-old to make a few relief appearances for Triple-A Norfolk.
"When you look at Brian's numbers in his career here and down below, he's been very effective against left-handers," manager Buck Showalter said of the idea, which has been kicked around internally for the last week or so. "That's something you'll probably see us do here very quickly."
Why Matusz? Over his career, he has held left-handed hitters to a .223/.281/.384 line -- with 23 walks against 103 strikeouts. In contrast, right-handed hitters have a .309/.373/.506 line with 116 walks and 170 strikeouts. Matusz is expected to get a few outings in relief and then be reevaluated, although Showalter was optimistic it would be a role he would do well in.
"It's something Brian has talked about before, I know to [special assistant Brady Anderson] and some other guys," Showalter said of Matusz, who went 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 16 starts before being sent to Triple-A. "It's something he would welcome if it would help us and also help him get back to the big leagues. We want to let him do it a couple times before we consider him an option, as far as getting up, short notice, get ready, come into a game. I'd be surprised if he can't do it and do it well. It also would give us some length down there."
The Orioles' first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Matusz is 21-33 with a 5.51 ERA in 68 Major League starts over parts of four seasons. His best year to date was 2010, when Matusz went 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA in a career-high 32 starts. Matusz struggled with injury and ineffectiveness last season, going 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts, but he had a solid Spring Training and made the team's Opening Day rotation.
With southpaw reliever Troy Patton placed on the disabled list on Tuesday, the Orioles traded for veteran J.C. Romero on Monday as the lone lefty in the 'pen. Asked why the club felt the move was best for Matusz to make instead of Jake Arrieta and fellow lefty Zach Britton, who are also in Triple-A, Showalter said they don't know that for sure just yet.
"If you look at his left-on-left numbers through his career, he has the best of that [group]," Showalter said. "When you have three or four right-handed starters, you really like to have a left-handed guy who's capable of pitching multiple innings, because the lineup's going to be primarily left and you can really get back in a ballgame with somebody like that. I'd be surprised if Brian couldn't do it, and I think the other part of it is he will embrace it, I think.
"It's where we are. We're going to look from within and see what might fit. He gets ready pretty quick. Until we get a couple outings from him down there, it's tough to really tell. It might be something that doesn't work out. There's only one way to find out."