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Orioles shut Matusz down for rest of year

O's shut Matusz down for rest of year

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles arrived at an expected conclusion Monday, when they elected to shut down rookie southpaw Brian Matusz for the remainder of the season. Matusz has had a meteoric first professional season that took him all the way from Class A to the Majors, and Baltimore wants to protect his arm as much as possible.

Matusz will stay with the team and will continue to work on things like his pickoff move, holding runners and throwing out of a slide step, but he won't keep running out for regular side sessions and starts. The Orioles see that he's already thrown 157 2/3 innings this year and are happy to sit him down on a positive note.

"He is a very big part of our future," said manager Dave Trembley. "A tremendous season based upon not just on how he performed here, but where he came from. A year ago, he was at the University of San Diego."

Trembley said that the team made its decision after having a joint meeting with Matusz, pitching coach Rick Kranitz and Andy MacPhail, the team's president of baseball operations. He also said that southpaw reliever Mark Hendrickson will take over the vacant spot in the rotation for the duration of the season.

Matusz, the fourth overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, signed last August, but didn't pitch in a full-season professional league until this year. The left-hander cruised through the first half at Class A Frederick and went 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA in eight starts for Double-A Bowie before earning his big league promotion.

And once he got to the Majors, he showed the ability to adapt and improvise. Matusz got hit hard in his first few starts, but he closed out with a 3-0 record and a 2.42 ERA in his final four starts. The 22-year-old went 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA overall in his first eight big league starts and said that his education went beyond the numbers.

"It's going to make everything that much better going into next year," he said. "I couldn't be more excited about the year I had. I wouldn't say I'm satisfied, but I am happy with the progress I've been able to make in my first pro season. Honestly, simply from going from big league camp to Minor League camp, to High A, to Double-A to the big leagues, it's a lot of steps. It's been a long year with a lot of different places and a lot of new teammates. I've come a long way. I'm really happy with my progress and now I know that I can perform at this level. I know what it takes."

Matusz, who beat the Yankees in his final start, said that the biggest competitive lesson he learned is to trust his stuff. When he first arrived, he said, he had a tendency to try to throw the ball past batters. That, in turn, would sink him behind in the count, and he found success once he went back to his basic approach.

The youngster also said that he can also learn from the time he spends charting pitches, and after spending a roughly equal time at Double-A and in the Majors, he ticked off the differences between the two.

"It's not just the competition level. It's not just on the field," he said. "Obviously, in the Major Leagues, it's a little more professional and you're taken care of a little bit better. There's a lot of different rules and things off the field that you have to learn. ... I think that's one of the reasons Dave Trembley and Andy MacPhail want me to stay for the next two weeks -- so I can continue to learn the game, learn the new teams and learn everything. Traveling, going to big cities, playing in front of Yankee fans or Boston fans. It's not easy, this whole mix of everything."

Matusz, who had a long year in college and pitched in the Arizona Fall League last season, acknowledged that he could use the time and the strain off his arm. He said that it will be hard to be an innocent bystander, though, and that while he'll pull for his teammates, he'll undoubtedly be thinking about the next time he can pitch.

"That's going to be the hardest thing," Matusz said. "I play this game for one reason, and that's because I love it. I like to be out there on the field, I like to give the team a chance to win and I like to pitch. It will be tough, but when it comes down to the professional side of it and the health side of it, it's the right thing to do. And that's why the decision was made."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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