Before Sunday night’s game against the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago Cubs called up left-handed pitcher Brian Matusz. In honor of Matusz starting tonight’s game, here is some more information on the veteran lefty.
Drafted 4th overall in 2008 by the Baltimore Orioles, Matusz (pronounced MATT-iss) made his major league debut for the Orioles on August 4th, 2009. Despite starting Sunday night’s game, Matusz has pitched strictly as a reliever since the 2013 season.
Before he was a reliever though, Matusz pitched as a starter for four seasons with the Orioles, all with less success than one would hope for. Matusz’s ERA was above 4.00 each season from 2009-2012, with hitters batting .280 or better in three of those four seasons.
After pitching to a 5.42 ERA as a starter before the All Star Break in 2012, the Orioles deemed a change was necessary for Matusz. After the break, the team moved him to the bullpen, a move that wound up being a great successful. In 18 appearances as a reliever, Matusz had a 1.35 ERA, with opponents hitting just .114 against him.
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Essentially, Matusz has enjoyed much greater success in his career so far while pitching out of the bullpen. As a reliever in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Matusz’s ERA was below 4.00 every season, including a 2.94 ERA in 58 appearances in 2015. With the Chicago Cubs’ five starting pitchers presumably going nowhere this season, Matusz could be a valuable asset out of the bullpen.
Despite this being true, one has to wonder if Matusz can realistically stick around in the Cubs’ bullpen. The team already has three lefty relievers, two of which are capable of starting (Mike Montgomery and Travis Wood) and the other being closer Aroldis Chapman.
If Matusz is to stick around, he realistically needs to prove he’s worthy of doing so. Going into Sunday night’s start, Matusz had a career ERA as a starter of 5.51. On the other hand, his career ERA as a reliever is 3.47. If he can figure things out, one has to figure he could definitely add to a solid Cubs; bullpen.
Update: Through three innings against the Mariners, Matusz has given up six runs on six hits, all six of which have come from three separate two-runs home runs.