Orioles-Mariners Preview

After losing the first two months of the season to an injury
following a solid finish to his rookie campaign, Brian Matusz is
set to make his 2011 debut for the Baltimore Orioles.

Just his luck it comes against a pitcher who could end up
garnering many votes as the AL’s top rookie later this year.

Matusz will take the mound opposite Michael Pineda, and the
Orioles will try to avoid an 0-6 road trip Wednesday, when they
meet the Seattle Mariners.

Matusz, who has been sidelined by a strained intercostal muscle,
was 10-12 with a 4.30 ERA in 32 starts while leading all AL rookies
with 143 strikeouts last season. The fourth overall pick in the
2008 amateur draft was almost unbeatable after the Orioles (25-29)
hired Buck Showalter as manager Aug. 3.

In his final 11 starts, the left-hander went 7-1 with a 2.18
ERA, and Baltimore posted a 10-1 record. Showalter told the
Orioles’ official website that Matusz is ready to play.

“He’s got a little anxiety,” Showalter said. “He wants to get
going with his season. We want him to get going. I kept that in
mind with him. He’s bouncing off the walls, he’s ready to go. I
think as he pitches and gets some of that out of him, he’ll get
back to his old self.”

Pineda (6-2, 2.42 ERA) will face Baltimore for the second time.
On May 10, he didn’t register a decision after being tagged for
three runs and seven hits in six innings as the Mariners lost 7-6
in 13 at Camden Yards.

Since then, the right-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA,
allowing just three runs and eight hits in 19 innings. Pineda was a
little wild Friday against the New York Yankees, walking a
season-high five in five innings and failing to get a decision as
Seattle (28-26) rallied for a 4-3 win.

”They made him work and he never gave into it. We talk about
him going through a series of firsts this year and that was another
one tonight,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. ”He was a little
erratic early on but really started to get dialed in there his last
couple innings.”

Pineda’s ERA is the lowest among rookie pitchers. He also is
tied with Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson for the major league lead
in wins among rookies.

Baltimore was swept at Oakland over the weekend, then lost 4-3
at Safeco Field on Monday. However, Jeremy Guthrie was cruising
with a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning Tuesday before his two-out
fielding error allowed Ichiro Suzuki to reach.

Brendan Ryan then singled and Justin Smoak followed with his
eighth homer to give Seattle a stunning 3-2 win, its 11th in 13

“I had command of a majority of my pitches and for the most part
stayed down, but left a few up,” said Guthrie, who went the
distance on a five-hitter and struck out a season-high nine, but
fell to 2-7.

Seattle third baseman Luis Rodriguez went 0 for 2 in place of
Chone Figgins, who was told Tuesday that he would be sitting out a
few games. Figgins is in an 0-for-22 slump that’s dropped his
batting average to .190.