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.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.