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Matusz had some great moments in Baltimore, but not enough

Matusz had some great moments in Baltimore, but not enough

It was a long, strange trip for Brian Matusz and the Orioles. In the spring of 2009, manager Dave Trembley was excited because, in his words, “The cavalry is coming.” 

After a long spell of losing seasons and an even longer minor league career, the Orioles and Trembley hoped to reap the benefits of a group of talented minor league pitchers. 

More than seven years later, only Chris Tillman remains from that group. 

While Matusz and Tillman stayed with the team the longest, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez all had their shots. 

Strangely, Trembley probably got to see Matusz at his hottest. 

After 19 minor league starts in 2009, the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft was rushed to the Orioles and teased Trembley with a 5-2 record and 4.63 ERA.

By June of the following season, Trembley was gone and Matusz was back to teasing. When Buck Showalter arrived two months later, he teased the new manager, too. 

Matusz went 7-1 under Showalter, and then 2011 happened.

A 1-9 record with a horrifying 10.69 ERA, and back to the minors.

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After another chance in 2012, Matusz was sent to Norfolk by midseason and when Troy Patton was injured in a freak accident, he hurriedly re-invented himself as a situational left-hander, and nearly four years later, that’s where he stands—against his will.

It was ridiculously early to typecast Matusz as a situational lefty at age 25, but the Orioles were left with no choice. 

Matusz hasn’t started a major league game since July 1, 2012, and that gnawed at him. He thought he would be traded in March 2015, but that never happened, and while he played the good soldier, he looked forward to free agency this fall so he could show another team that he was a legitimate major league starter. 

Ironically, the team that traded for him, the Atlanta Braves, employ Trembley as their minor league guru, but he won’t be stopping there. 

The Braves didn’t want Matusz to join their cadre of ex-Orioles: Nick Markakis, Bud Norris, Jim Johnson and Kelly Johnson. They really wanted the Orioles’ pick in the Competitive Balance round, the 76th overall, and they’d gladly eat the nearly $3 million that was remaining on Matusz’s contract. 

The Orioles picked up two decent, but not show stopping prospects to add to a farm system badly in need of more arms. 

Most important, they rid themselves of Matusz, who manager Buck Showalter didn’t want to use. Matusz had to start his season on the disabled list, and stayed longer on a rehab assignment than expected because he didn’t perform well in Bowie. 

He gave up eight runs on 11 hits and walked seven in six innings, and the Orioles simply couldn’t go with him any longer. 

Almost immediately after the trade, the Braves designated Matusz for assignment, and once he clears waivers, will search for a team that will allow him an opportunity to start. 

For the Orioles, Matusz was a disappointment. Much more is expected from the fourth overall draft choice, but Showalter found ways to use him. 

He was terrific against David Ortiz, who was 4-for-29 with 13 strikeouts, and Nick Swisher had just one hit in 22 at-bats. He was also great against Brett Gardner and Josh Hamilton (a combined 3-for-33). 

But, in the end there weren’t enough hitters Matusz was successful against, and his time in Baltimore ends. 

He leaves behind many friends through his work with children’s charities, and many who will be rooting for a fresh start as a starter.

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

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Showalter fired as Orioles manager after 115-loss season

Buck Showalter has been fired as manager of the Orioles, who made three playoff appearances under his guidance but this year staggered through the worst season since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954.

Showalter confirmed the dismissal Wednesday in a text message to The Associated Press.

A three-time AL Manager of the Year, Showalter ranks second on the Orioles' career list with 669 victories, trailing Earl Weaver. He took over in August 2010 and orchestrated the resurgence of a team that suffered through 14 straight losing seasons.

Once hailed for making baseball in Baltimore relevant again, the 62-year-old Showalter is out of a job after a season in which the Orioles finished 47-115, 61 games behind Boston in the AL East. His contract expired at the end of October, and the Orioles opted against a renewal as they continue a major rebuild that began in late July, when they traded stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman for minor league prospects.

Those deals were made by Dan Duquette, the executive vice president of baseball operations, whose future with the organization is up in the air.

Showalter earned AL Manager of the Year honors in 2014 after taking the Orioles to the AL East title and a berth in the Championship Series. He was also named Manager of Year with the Yankees in 1994 and Texas in 2004. His career record is 1,551-1,517, including 669-684 with Baltimore.

"I just think ever since he came here, the franchise just gained a little more accountability, gained an edge for some time," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said before the final game of the season. "It's the end of an era. A great manager, a great tenure. I don't know if he's going to coach or manage again, but he's got grandchildren. Go golf. Relax and go sit on the golf course."

With his future in doubt, Showalter appeared undaunted during the final series of the regular season.

"You know how good they've been to me? I'm not ever going to forget that, regardless of what happens," he said.

Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin was asked before his team's playoff game against the Yankees on Wednesday night whether Showalter was victimized by the trend toward analytics.

"I don't think Buck was a guy that ignored analytics," Melvin said. "I think it was probably a combination of how they did this year and maybe some relationships."

After the Orioles brought Showalter out of retirement, he offered renewed hope by fashioning a 34-23 finish in 2010 for a team that was 32-73 upon his arrival.

Baltimore ended a 14-year playoff drought in 2012, advancing to the AL Division Series following a victory over Texas in the wild-card game. Playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016 followed.

Last year, however, the Orioles fell to 75-87 after losing 19 of their final 23 games. Baltimore hoped the addition of starters Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner would enable the team to be a contender this year, but a horrid start quickly dispelled that notion.

The Orioles' deficit in the AL East reached double digits by April 18 and they were 8-27 on May 8. By the end of July, Baltimore fully entered rebuilding mode, leaving Showalter with the dubious distinction of overseeing a team that finished with the poorest record in the majors and one that surpassed the 1939 St. Louis Browns for most losses in franchise history.

Showalter never offered an excuse. He just grinded forward, working to prepare the team for 2019 even though he knew he might not be around to follow through.

At the outset of a season-ending series against Houston, Showalter was asked if he was thinking these might be his final days in the Baltimore dugout.

"We all have some private thoughts and emotions about that, but I don't think it serves the organization well for me to be worried about that right now," he said. "We've got some things to do these last four games that need to get done."

Showalter has a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, but his players appreciated his baseball knowledge and skill at handling a team. He made a point of talking to each of them on a regular basis, almost always offering encouragement.

"He gave me a chance," said catcher Caleb Joseph, who played six-plus years in the minors before arriving in Baltimore. "He believed in me in 2014, ran me out there and gave me a chance to be part of a championship team. He's really vouched for me ever since. I owe a lot to Buck and his loyalty. He's been a main figure here for a long time."

Sensing the end was near for the only big league manager he had ever played for, first baseman Trey Mancini said: "It's been an absolute honor to play for Buck. He's been incredible."

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Red Sox beat Orioles 6-2 to clinch home field through Series

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Red Sox beat Orioles 6-2 to clinch home field through Series

The Boston Red Sox broke a 106-year-old franchise record with their 106th victory on Monday night, clinching home-field advantage through the postseason by beating the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 thanks to a pair of hits from major league batting leader Mookie Betts.

Nathan Eovaldi struck out 10 hapless Orioles batters to assure the Red Sox of the best record in baseball this season and home-field advantage through the World Series, if they make it that far. For now, they know they will open the Division Series at Fenway Park on Oct. 5 against the winner of the AL wild-card game between the New York Yankees and mostly likely Oakland.

The 1912 Red Sox won 105 games in their first season at Fenway Park.

The Orioles (45-111) became the sixth AL team and the first since the 2003 Tigers to lose 111 games, falling 60 games behind Boston (106-51) in the division. It's the first time since 1939 that teams separated by 60 wins in the standings have played each other.

Boston scored four in the second inning, getting back-to-back doubles from Steve Pearce and Brock Holt, an RBI single from Christian Vazquez and Betts' two-run homer over the Green Monster. It was the 32nd homer of the season for Betts, a new career high.

Betts also singled and scored in Boston's two-run fourth, moving him into the major-league lead with 125 runs scored. In his last three games, he is 10 for 16 with three homers and four doubles, and he leads teammate J.D. Martinez (.328) in the AL batting race.

Renato Nunez had three hits for the Orioles, who fell to 2-15 against Boston and 18-61 on the road this season.

FOR STARTERS

Six days after throwing six scoreless innings against the Yankees, Eovaldi (6-7) allowed one run on four hits in five innings, walking none but uncorking a pair of wild pitches.

Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy (8-16) gave up four runs on five hits and three walks in three innings, striking out five.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: RHP Yefrey Ramirez is scheduled to start on Wednesday, but manager Buck Showalter said he wanted to give him an extra day or two. "I think Yefrey will pitch again, I just don't know when," Showalter said.

Red Sox: SS Xander Bogaerts was back in the lineup after feeling soreness in his left shoulder during a swing and leaving Sunday night's game. ... INF Eduardo Nunez ran on Sunday to test his hamstring and was scheduled to run again on Monday with the goal of having him back in the lineup by Wednesday or Friday.

UP NEXT

LHP David Price (15-7) tries to bounce back from a rough start in Yankee Stadium in the second game of the series in what could be his last start of the regular season.