Number of different topics to discuss in Birdland tonight. Let’s start with the good, the return of Brian Matusz.
Topic 1: Brian Matusz Returns
In his first start of 2011, Matusz was able to go 5.2 innings, allowing 1 er, 4 hits, 0 bb’s, with 3 k’s. He threw 84 pitches overall, with 52 for strikes. Obviously good to see him back in an O’s uniform. You can argue that if Matusz had started the year with the Birds, that Britton would not have been up before April 21st or so. You can also argue that Matusz would have been unlikely to have pitched any better than what Britton did. However, if Britton was up on the 21st with Matusz - the rotation would have figured to have been better since that point. Looking back does no good, so let us look ahead. With Matusz, Guthrie, Britton, and Arrieta starting; the Orioles should get a competitive outing most nights.
Topic 2: Jake Fox & Roster Management
To make room for Matusz on the roster, the Orioles designated Jake Fox for assignment. Not exactly a surprising decision, and something I had been forecasting for sometime. While I saw the move coming, it is not a move that I support. The Orioles obviously believe Tatum is the superior defensive catcher. There is more to defense behind the plate beyond throwing, but it should be noted that Tatum had trouble throwing runners out last year. To me, Tatum is not a good enough defensive catcher, to stay on the roster over Fox. Even if Tatum is the superior defensive player, the pop of Fox’s bat is more valuable. There have been comments stating (correctly) that Fox can not hit lefties. While there is truth to that statement, it is also accurate to say that Tatum does not hit anyone. (Yes, I know Tatum had a .281 average last year. More importantly he has a .601 career OPS.)
Topic 3: Markakis & Roster Management Continued
I absolutely do not understand the decision to play Markakis at 1st base today. The rationale from Showalter was the O’s Manager wanted to give Guerrero a day off, and give Scott’s sore shoulder a rest from playing the field. There are a number of things to dislike about this decision. First, the O’s are off tomorrow allowing everyone to get a breather. Secondly, Markakis might be in more need of an additional day off more than Guerrero, or Scott. Thirdly, did this move give the O’s their best chance of ending a losing streak today?
In the 6th inning, Reynolds was charged with a throwing error on a ball Markakis should have had. Of course you can not blame Markakis for being forced to play out of position. If Fox had not been DFA’d earlier today, you could have given Guerrero and Scott the day off - with Fox at 1st (a position he is familiar with) and Markakis still in RF.
Again, I would have cut Tatum to keep Fox, but there were other options. The O’s recently sent both Tillman, and Bergesen to the Minors, with a decision to go with a 4 man rotation for most of June. The O’s said part of that decision was a desire to give additional starts to the guys they think are best capable of going deeper in games. If you have confidence in the ability of Matusz, Guthrie, Britton, and Arrieta to provide consistent innings; why are the Orioles going with a 13 man staff? Really, you need 9 relief pitchers? Really? How about instead of carrying Rapada, Viola, and Jakubasuskas - you just make Gonzalez the LOOGY, and use Bergesen as an additional long-man?
That 11 man staff would look like:
Matusz, Guthrie, Britton, Arrieta
Gregg, Johnson, Uehara, Gonzalez, Accardo, Simon, Bergesen
You’d still have Tillman back in AAA as an option to join the rotation, and more than enough depth in the bullpen to support the 4 starters. With added benefit of being able to carry two additional positional players. Seems to make more sense vs. the redundancy being carried now.
Topic 4: Derrek Lee / Scott / Guerrero 1st/DH
Derrek Lee is making a rehab start at Bowie tomorrow night, and could/should be back in an O’s uniform Friday or Saturday. EDIT: Due to the death of his Grandfather, Lee will not begin his rehab until later this weekend.
Ok, what happens then? As we discussed yesterday in the game recap, we've known about Scott's Labrum injury, but hearing Scott is in 'deep physical pain' when he has to throw from LF, as opposed to 'discomfort' is not good. As MASN pointed out, other teams will obviously be aware of that and attempt to take extra bases. The O's will attempt to limit his games in the OF - which becomes all the more complicated once Lee returns from the DL. Further to that, if you are going to be shopping Scott, other teams will be looking at him as 1st/DH only, which lessens his overall value. When you factor in his current lack of offensive performance, moving him becomes very unlikely. If Scott can definitively not be playing regularly in LF, then a move is going to have to made with either Lee or Guerrero.
Topic 5: Adam Jones Today / Contract Extension
That catch Jones made in CF today is as good a catch as you are ever going to see. The HR he had in the 8th, was absolutely crushed.
Even if Jones never greatly improves his plate discipline, he does enough things well to be legitimately considered a long-term piece. While he is under contract through 2013, I think the O’s should be rewarding Jones with an extension through his first year or two of Free Agency. His defensive positioning (and defense overall) has improved. He is not going to hit .343 every Month like he did in May, and he will have months where he struggles. Overall though, he should be a guy that annually posts an OPS in that .775 - .835 range with good defense. I think you can count on him as part of the solution, and not another question mark.
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