NORFOLK, Va. – Brian Matusz pitched his way into Baltimore's rotation this spring and made his final pitch with a strong outing in an exhibition against the Orioles' top farm team in Norfolk on Wednesday afternoon.
The 25-year-old lefthander pitched four shutout innings, allowing three hits. He struck out five and walked one in the Orioles' 6-4 loss to the Norfolk Tides.
After the game, manager Buck Showalter announced that Matusz would start the fourth game of the season for the Orioles, following Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Tommy Hunter. Wei-Yin Chen will be the fifth starter.
"He's had a good spring, and he's deserving of the rotation," Showalter said. "He had a lot of things going on last year, some of them self-inflicted, but he's had a good offseason and it carried over into a good spring. Now we're hoping he can carry that over into the season."
In 2010, he won 10 games and was considered one of the top young arms in the organization. But last season he struggled with a strained muscle in his ribcage and went 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA, the highest ERA in major-league history for a pitcher making at least 10 starts.
He had some success during a midseason trip to the minors, but got clobbered again when he returned to Baltimore in mid-August.
"Last year is over with, and for the past six weeks at spring training I've been focused on this year," Matusz said. "I'm just working on getting back on track, refining my mechanics and attacking the strike zone."
The rotation appeared to fall into place on Tuesday when the team announced that Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada would start the season on the disabled list. But Matusz said he had not formally been told on Wednesday what his role would be.
"I just wanted to go out today and get my work in," Matusz said. "I've tried to work hard and pitch consistently this spring, and that's all I wanted to do today."
Wada, who has experienced elbow discomfort, will be eligible to come off the disabled list on April 12.
Showalter announced that lefty Zach Phillips would be assigned to Norfolk, trimming the Baltimore roster to 25.
"Zach has pitched well," Showalter said. "Last year we had so many injuries that we were just trying to put a pitching staff together. This year we're sending guys to Triple-A who probably pitched well enough to make the team."