For Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz, his first start of the season Monday night brings a new beginning — and a clean slate.
Matusz, who earned the No. 4 spot in the rotation this spring, will make his season debut against the defending AL East champion New York Yankees. And the 25-year-old wants to use his first start as an official turning-of-the-page in putting last year's disastrous season behind him.
"It's a fresh season," said Matusz, who went 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA last year and had two trips to the DL. "I don't even remember last year. I've totally cleared it out of my mind, and my focus is starting with a clean slate here and to get off on a good start."
Matusz had a 3.65 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts and tallied a 7.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio (22 strikeouts, 3 walks) coming off an offseason in which he showed a new dedication to his conditioning by working out with first-year Orioles assistant Brady Anderson.
"It's definitely a special start," Matusz said Sunday. "It's been a long road this offseason, this spring to be able to fight back, to being able to make the team and then do that, pitching the way I know how to pitch. I'm excited to go out there and just pitch the game I love to play and just get back out there again."
His rotation predecessors, right-handers Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel, set the bar high in the weekend's series sweep of the Twins. Up until an eighth-inning run off Hammel in Sunday's 3-1 win over Minnesota, Orioles starters began the season having not allowed an earned run in their first 21 innings.
Now it's Matusz's turn against the Yankees, who were swept in Tampa Bay over the weekend. Matusz's first five career starts against the Yankees were all quality starts, but he pitched to a 14.84 ERA in two 2011 starts against them.
"All the teams are going to be good," Matusz said. "It doesn't matter if it's the Yankees, Red Sox, anybody. It's a big-league lineup. I've prepared really hard this spring, this offseason, so I'm excited to face the Yankees right out of the gate.
Showalter aims to get everyone on the field
Third baseman Mark Reynolds — who took a batted ball off his left calf Saturday night — didn't start in Sunday's series finale against the Twins. Buck Showalter said Reynolds could have played, but the Orioles manager wanted to make sure his position players all saw time in the field in the opening series.
So he gave Wilson Betemit, the Orioles' Opening Day DH, the start at third. Left fielder Endy Chavez also made his first start of the season.
"With the DH being able to move around, we've got some interchangeable parts," Showalter said. "It's more about getting everybody on the field the first three days. Nick [Johnson] played first base [Saturday] night. I think it's important from my experience that everybody gets on the field somewhere and gets in that mix, especially before we go on the road.
"It has the potential to be a strength of ours that we have a lot of interchangeable parts," Showalter added. "It's something we worked hard to try to improve on last year, because our bench and the flexibility and the drop off when we had injuries wasn't good. With Endy being able to play multiple positions and Wilson and Nick being able to play a position, we don't really have somebody that defensively can't go somewhere, unlike last year."
Betemit's two-run double in the sixth proved to be the game-winning hit Sunday. Chavez beat out an infield single in the fifth.
As for Reynolds, he said there's a bruise on his calf, but that he's healthy enough to play.
Around the horn
The Orioles' win Sunday was their seventh straight over the Twins. This weekend's sweep followed a four-game sweep in Minnesota last August. … This was the Orioles' first home sweep of the Twins since Aug. 6-8, 2002. … In each of the series' three games, the Orioles took leads on home runs in first two innings (Nick Marakis in the first on Opening Day, Adam Jones in the second on Saturday and J.J. Hardy in the first Sunday). … Johnson, on the tail end of a sixth inning double steal, stole his first base since 2009. … Reliever Kevin Gregg was warming up in the bullpen in the eighth, but he didn't enter the game. Gregg, right-handed reliever Darren O'Day and starters Matusz and Wei-Yin Chen are the only Orioles yet to see action in a game.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times