Brian Matusz’s strong rookie season made the former No. 4 overall pick look like a long-term building block for the Orioles, but instead he’s taken several big steps backward this season, getting rocked for 25 runs in 26 innings, spending time on the disabled list, and then being demoted to Triple-A in late June.
Matusz is now trying to work his way back to the majors and it’s not going particularly well, with reports of decreased velocity accompanying a 4.83 ERA at Triple-A.
Matusz spoke pretty candidly about his struggles with Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, saying that he wasn’t “mentally prepared” for the Orioles coaching staff asking him to “change things I’ve done my whole life.” Here’s more from the 24-year-old left-hander:
I was working with two pitching coaches that I didn’t know and they wanted to change things I’ve done for my whole life. Rick Adair and Mark Connor had great intentions of helping us young guys get better. That was the goal, that was the plan. Mentally, I wasn’t prepared to make that happen. Right now, I’m trying to find myself, getting back to what has made me successful through my entire life.
Zrebiec notes that some within the Orioles organization think Matusz wasn’t physically prepared either, questioning his offseason preparation. Matusz admitted that he needs to add more strength, but told Zrebiec that “it was all mental”:
It was feeling that I wasn’t good enough at the time and I had to change everything I had in order to supposedly get better. My confidence was taken away. It was beaten down. Then, I ended up being hurt and it’s just been a fight to get it back.
Buck Showalter defended Adair and Connor, saying: “If coaches see something that’s going to be a challenge for somebody going forward, they try to fix it, and you listen to people who have a long track record of success in the big leagues.”
Matusz listened to them and, right or wrong, clearly thinks that played a huge role in his sophomore slump.