It Is Now or Never For the Baltimore Orioles’ Brian Matusz

July 02, 2012 | Andrew Tomlinson

Yesterday saw once promising Baltimore Orioles prospect Brian Matusz sent back down to AAA Norfolk after a disastrous four inning start, where he gave up four earned runs to the Cleveland Indians enroute to a 6-2 loss.

The outing marks yet another puzzling start for a pitcher who at point was regarded as a potential top of the rotation candidante. In 2012, he has failed to maintain any momentum what so ever for more than a handful of starts. In 107 innings, Matusz has given up 51 earned runs on his way to a below mediocre 5.42 ERA.

The lack of success this year is just another rung in the ladder towards busting as a prospect for Matusz. He only has one winning season in his career, his first when he was 5-2 in 2009, but a combination of bad Orioles teams and bad pitching by him has led to a career winning percentage of .389. At some point, the O’s have to make a decision about his future with the organization. If he continues with his current winning percentage with an ERA trending down, his future may be a short one.

Matusz is heading dangerously towards AAAA-player territory. These are the types of players who dominate players in the minor leagues, but can never put it together in the Major Leagues. Someone like Mike Hessman, the current minor league baseball home run leader, is the type of player Matusz is on the verge of becoming. Sure, some may say he is only in his fourth year of baseball, by Matusz is 25 and isn’t getting any younger. Even more concerning, is Matusz followed a career path, playing baseball at the University of San Diego before going pro, indicative of players who rise to the majors and succeed faster than other prospects.

Now, this may be viewed as secondary to some, but the worst part of Matusz’s lack of success is how it is also tanking his trade value. At one point, Matusz was considered one of the most promising pitchers in baseball and the organization could have netted quite the haul for him. Now though, as he struggles to show he can compete at the major league level, his value continues to plummet and Baltimore’s window for moving him for even a decent player in return is closing.

It is hard to blame the O’s for not trading the guy though. Matusz has a promising arm, was projected as a can’t miss kind of guy and clearly looked as if he had the intangibles to be a meaningful part of a major league roster. It is easy to play armchair general manager now, after seeing what Matusz has done, but it is tough to sit here and think Baltimore has anything more than outside hopes for him to impact the franchise going forward.

Matusz has an incredibly small window to get himself back into relevance. That time for him is now. If the former top pitching prospect is ever going to join this roster and show he can make it as a major league player, he has to do it this year. For his sake and the organizations, he can’t kick around in AAA again this year only to make the roster next year. If that is the case, then it is more of the same for Matusz and it is time for the O’s to start looking for his “Plan B.”

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