KANSAS CITY -- Orioles reliever Brian Matusz can provide an impact simply by warming up. Just ask manager Buck Showalter, who has used the lefty just five times in July but cites the presence of Matusz as a key checkmate for other clubs.
Matusz has held left-handed hitters to a .175/.230/.298 line in 123 career relief outings, and he has been a valuable weapon in his first full season in the bullpen. Even if the 26-year-old's name has lately stayed out of the box score. Matusz, who has a 3.47 ERA in 42 games, faced two batters in Sunday's win and has recorded two outs since July 10.
"It's always a tough time after the break to get your bullpen back in routine," said Showalter, who has not pitched lefties Troy Patton and T.J. McFarland since July 13. "We talked about it a little bit last night; the matchups haven't been there.
"I've been happy with his durability. He's been carrying good stuff. We'll go through periods here where he'll probably need a day off. It will change. A lot of it depends on what the competition presents. But Brian is capable of getting right-handed hitters out. I think you will see him only get better at that as he goes on."
Matusz pitched to a 1.35 ERA in 18 relief outings last year, stranding all 14 inherited runners, and he has stranded 40 of 43 since making the move to the bullpen at the end of last season. While his appearances have been down lately, he pitched in 13 games -- totaling 9 1/3 innings -- in May and 10 in June (10 2/3), he still prepares with the mindset that he will get in every game.
"Whether I'm going to get warmed up or not, my job is to pitch when I'm called upon," he said. "And that's all I can do, is take advantage of it when I get my opportunities, do my role and do my part to help this team win."
One of the team's starting rotation candidates this spring, Matusz is not a starting option for the Orioles this season given how long it would take for him to get stretched out and the team's need to have him as a late-inning lefty. But what of his future in the organization?
"He's still going to have a four-pitch mix; I would never say never on that," Showalter said of Matusz, who is a career 21-33 with a 5.51 ERA in 68 starts. "He still presents himself as an option to start."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less