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Orioles decide to shut down rookie lefty Matusz

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The Canadian Press
9/14/2009 6:17:35 PM
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BALTIMORE -- Pitcher Brian Matusz is being shut down by the Baltimore Orioles, who are wary of overextending the rookie left-hander in his first professional season.

"It's the right thing to do for Matusz and it's the right thing to do for the Baltimore Orioles," manager Dave Trembley said Monday.

"He's a very big part of our future (and had) a tremendous season, based upon not just how he performed here but where he came from. A year ago he was at the University of San Diego. He wasn't expected to be here."

When rookie right-hander Brad Bergesen sustained a bruised shin July 30 and eventually was placed on the disabled list, the Orioles selected Matusz's contract from double-A Bowie and inserted him into the rotation.

The 22-year-old Matusz went 5-2 with a 4.63 ERA in eight starts, tossing seven innings of four-hit ball at Yankee Stadium on Saturday in what proved to be his final 2009 start.

"I think he's shown not only the ability to pitch at the major league level, but also shown a real knack for poise and how to deal with the overall environment," Trembley said.

Matusz pitched 44 2-3 innings while with Baltimore. But that total, added to the 113 innings he accumulated for single-A Frederick and Bowie before the promotion, convinced the Orioles not to overtax Matusz's arm any further. He was 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA in the minors this season.

Matusz endorsed the decision, which was reached during a Monday afternoon meeting involving Trembley, pitching coach Rick Kranitz and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

"It's just part of my deal, me being in my first year of pro ball," Matusz said. "It's the right time. ... I get to finish the year on a positive note -- my best start of the year against the Yankees. I get to finish the year 100 per cent healthy."

Left-hander Mark Hendrickson, who opened the season in the rotation and was 1-4 with a 6.35 ERA in seven starts, will take Matusz's place in the rotation, Trembley said.

Matusz will spend the season's final weeks working on holding runners, his pickoff move and his slidestep. He'll also soak up some experience from the bench, where he's eager to see what he can learn from watching games.

"I'm really proud of my progress," Matusz said.

Still, the inactivity will be an adjustment.

"It's going to be the hardest thing. I play this game for one reason: because I love it. I like to be out there on the field, to give the team a chance to win, and I like to pitch," Matusz said. "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."

Matusz, the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, said he won't throw again until sometime in December or January.

Trembley said there were no immediate plans to shut down another rookie in the Orioles rotation, right-hander Chris Tillman, who is 2-3 with a 4.91 ERA in nine starts. Tillman has thrown 148 innings this season between triple-A Norfolk and the majors, the most he's logged in his professional career.

"Tillman's got a few more starts. ... and he'll let us know where he's at," Trembley said.

Brian Matusz (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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