Two front-office sources have confirmed the initial report of the Kevin Millwood trade, signalling that Texas and Baltimore may only be an approved medical report away from making things official. The Rangers seem set to send Millwood and cash considerations to the Orioles in exchange for former closer Chris Ray, who is coming off a down year after an elbow injury.
The timetable for the team to review the medical reports is unknown, and it could take as little as a few hours or as much as a few days. Texas will likely be interested in the condition of Ray’s shoulder, which was repaired in 2007 and caused him to miss the 2008 season.
Baltimore, meanwhile, will want to check out the wear-and-tear associated with Millwood’s arm, an appendage that has logged more than 2,000 innings over his career. If everything passes muster, Millwood will give the Orioles another veteran arm at the top of the rotation to help support highly touted youngsters Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.
— Spencer Fordin
The Orioles held their Minor League Appreciation night on Wednesday and chose the occasion to introduce a few of their prospects and hand out a few awards.
Brandon Waring, who had previously been given the Carolina League Most Valuable Player award for his exploits at Class A Frederick, was named the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year on Wednesday. Waring, acquired as a piece in last winter’s Ramon Hernandez trade, batted .274 with 38 doubles and 27 home runs for the Keys.
Brian Matusz, who has been with the Orioles for the last six weeks, was named the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year on the strength of a combined 11-2 record and 1.92 ERA between Frederick and Double-A Bowie. Matusz continued his success upon his promotion to the Major Leagues but was shut down early to protect his arm.
Baltimore also recognized Caleb Joseph for the Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award and Triple-A Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin for the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award. Scout Jim Howard was named the Jim Russo Scout of the Year.
— Spencer Fordin
The Orioles elected to shut down Brian Matusz for the rest of the year Monday. Matusz, who had thrown 157 2/3 innings between three stops in his first professional season, will end his season on a high note and get to work on the finer points of his game in the big leagues.
Matusz, the fourth overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, made it all the way to the Majors less than a year after signing his first professional contract. The 22-year-old southpaw started slow but racked up a 3-0 record and a 2.42 ERA in his final four starts.
Brian Matusz had gotten through his first four starts without allowing a hit to a left-handed hitter, but that trend ended in the first inning Tuesday night. Matusz, who had held lefties to 0-for-8 before Tuesday, retired Denard Span but gave up a hit to Joe Mauer.
Matusz came right back to strike out Justin Morneau, another left-handed hitter. Manager Dave Trembley said before the game that he’d be interested to watch those matchups.
“I think for Matusz it’s going to be pitch ahead, stay away from the walk,” he said. “It probably would be to his advantage if those big guys don’t come up with men on base. There’s not too many times you’re going to get Mauer to take an oh-fer. And Morneau was probably just getting back into it after missing a few days. I’d expect today he’d be a ball of fire.”
— Spencer Fordin
When Brian Matusz won on Tuesday, he became the fifth Baltimore rookie to win his big-league debut this season, a feat unrivaled in modern baseball history. Only one other team — the 1888 Chicago White Stockings, who later became the Cubs — has managed to equal that achievement, giving the Orioles an interesting footnote in the game’s annals.
Koji Uehara, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez have also won their debuts this season, and Baltimore had a near-miss in a no-decision for Chris Tillman.
Rookie Matt Wieters, who helped usher Matusz through his debut, had an interesting quip. “That’s when they started baseball,” he said of 1888. “So everybody was debuting.”
The Orioles played things close to the vest on Monday, when they declined to officially explain the presence of two southpaw pitchers. Brian Matusz, who is expected to make his big-league debut on Tuesday, worked out at Comerica Park on Monday.
Baltimore also got a guest-starring appearance from Chris Waters, who worked out with the team before the clubhouse was opened to the media. Waters may or may not join the team as a reliever on Tuesday, and he could also be a candidate to start on Friday.
“I think it depends on what happens tonight,” said manager Dave Trembley. “We need to see what our needs are after tonight’s game. Is that honest and up front?”
Trembley has said that starter Jason Berken’s role is being re-evaluated, and the youngster could be used in relief over the next couple days. In that case, Waters would likely take his slot on Friday, which would necessitate another roster move by the Orioles.
The Orioles may be nearing a major philosophical change. Baltimore’s decision-makers had said all season that they’d prefer not to promote pitching prospect Brian Matusz to the parent club, choosing instead to let the southpaw develop at a gradual pace.
Now, after a leg injury to Brad Bergesen, that plan has changed. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley admitted Saturday that his team has considered promoting Matusz, and then there’s the fact that the left-hander was pulled after just one inning for Double-A Bowie.
Matusz, who has a 7-0 record and a 1.55 ERA in eight starts for Bowie, appears to be on line to start for the Orioles Tuesday in Detroit. Baltimore is already the first team since 1900 to have four pitchers win their big league debut, and Matusz could well be the fifth.
First-round draftee Brian Matusz continued his quick rise through the Minor Leagues on Thursday night, when he threw a seven inning complete game shutout against the Akron Aeroes. Matusz had as many strikeouts (six) as he allowed baserunners (six).
Matusz, the fourth overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, started the year with Class A Frederick and went 4-2 with a 2.16 ERA and 75 strikeouts in his first 11 starts. Now, through three starts with Double-A Bowie, he’s 3-0 with an 0.49 ERA.
Despite his rapid success, the Orioles have no plan to promote Matusz to the big leagues this season. Matusz likely sit at Bowie all year, which should set him up for an extended audition in Spring Training and a starting point at Triple-A Norfolk.
The Orioles began making their first cuts of the spring on Saturday, although some of the players may hang around for an extra day or two before they depart to the team’s Minor League complex in Sarasota. Perhaps the most prominent of the cuts was right-hander Chris Tillman, who’s considered one of the team’s best pitching prospects.
Tillman, just 20 years old, is expected to split the season between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk and might be the first of Baltimore’s top prospects to reach the Majors. For now, he’s concentrating on what he has to do next.
“They kind of let me know I’m here for the experience and to get to know the guys. The time will come,” he said. “They’re not sure where I’ll start because there are so many pitchers now, which is a good thing. I’m happy to be part of it. And either way, it’s a positive.”
Other cuts include Jake Arrieta, Fredy Deza, Ryan Keefer, Adam Donachie, Jose Reyes and Craig Brazell. The Orioles also announced after the game that they were also reassigning first-round draftee Brian Matusz, Troy Patton, David Hernandez, Chorye Spoone and Jim Hoey to their Minor League camp in Sarasota, wrapping up the first round of cuts.
First-round draftee Brian Matusz continues to impress the Baltimore brass and is quickly positioning himself for a meteoric rise through the farm system. The southpaw threw three scoreless innings Thursday and has shown command of three plus pitches.
While nobody expects Matusz to pitch in the Majors this season, it’s been interesting to gauge his progress against veteran hitters. Manager Dave Trembley even took the youngster’s curveball away Thursday, making him rely more on his fastball and changeup.
Trembley said the Orioles won’t limit him that way during the season, and Matusz said that he will likely gain quite a bit from his first Spring Training experience.
“It’s just great experience all around to be able to go out there and face big-league hitters,” he said. “It’s just been a lot of fun and I think it’s going to help me in my development process — just picking up information from other guys and really working on some things.”