Brian Matusz, the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, is headed to the bullpen at Triple-A Norfolk as the Orioles try to figure out whether he might be able to help them next month.
Expected to be one of the Orioles’ best starters in 2011, Matusz instead turned in the highest ERA ever for a pitcher with at least 40 innings pitched, finishing 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts. He appeared much improved this spring and won a rotation spot, but the success didn’t last; he lost his last five starts and was sent down at the beginning of July with a 5-10 record and a 5.42 ERA.
Matusz’s Triple-A outings have been a mixed bag. He pitched a shutout in his first start on July 6, but he had allowed 18 earned runs in 32 innings since.
It was righties that killed Matusz in the majors this year, so the Orioles think he could have success in a short role out of the pen. Lefties hit just .174 with two homers in 86 at-bats against him this season, whereas righties were at .347 with 12 homers in 265 at-bats.
That trend hasn’t carried over in the minors, though. Since arriving at Norfolk, Matusz has given up a .269 average to lefties and a .218 average to righties.
With the Orioles still in contention in the AL East, the move makes sense on at least a short-term basis to see if Matusz can provide some value in September. It shouldn’t be a permanent switch, though; regardless of how September goes, Matusz needs to be put back into the mix for the rotation next spring.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2010 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.