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Brian Matusz wasn’t “mentally prepared” to “change things I’ve done for my whole life”

Jul 29, 2011, 12:16 PM EDT

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Brian Matusz’s strong rookie season made the former No. 4 overall pick look like a long-term building block for the Orioles, but instead he’s taken several big steps backward this season, getting rocked for 25 runs in 26 innings, spending time on the disabled list, and then being demoted to Triple-A in late June.

Matusz is now trying to work his way back to the majors and it’s not going particularly well, with reports of decreased velocity accompanying a 4.83 ERA at Triple-A.

Matusz spoke pretty candidly about his struggles with Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, saying that he wasn’t “mentally prepared” for the Orioles coaching staff asking him to “change things I’ve done my whole life.” Here’s more from the 24-year-old left-hander:

I was working with two pitching coaches that I didn’t know and they wanted to change things I’ve done for my whole life. Rick Adair and Mark Connor had great intentions of helping us young guys get better. That was the goal, that was the plan. Mentally, I wasn’t prepared to make that happen. Right now, I’m trying to find myself, getting back to what has made me successful through my entire life.

Zrebiec notes that some within the Orioles organization think Matusz wasn’t physically prepared either, questioning his offseason preparation. Matusz admitted that he needs to add more strength, but told Zrebiec that “it was all mental”:

It was feeling that I wasn’t good enough at the time and I had to change everything I had in order to supposedly get better. My confidence was taken away. It was beaten down. Then, I ended up being hurt and it’s just been a fight to get it back.

Buck Showalter defended Adair and Connor, saying: “If coaches see something that’s going to be a challenge for somebody going forward, they try to fix it, and you listen to people who have a long track record of success in the big leagues.”

Matusz listened to them and, right or wrong, clearly thinks that played a huge role in his sophomore slump.

  1. Chris St. John - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Not sure if this is the best way to look at this, but maybe it will be interesting: Since 2001, the Orioles have had 45 pitchers start their career there. Exactly one of those 45 is a starter who had an ERA+ over 100 for their tenure as an Oriole (Erik Bedard).

    • Chris St. John - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:42 PM

      Cherry-picking a team, let’s say the Braves. Same exact criteria: 13 starters with an ERA+ over 100.

      • Chris St. John - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:45 PM

        Whoops, my mistake. It should be 5, not 13.

    • paperlions - Jul 29, 2011 at 2:17 PM

      That isn’t cherry-picking, that is using the relevant team….as Matusz is in the Orioles organization…..how well the Braves develop pitching prospects is irrelevant to how well the Orioles do it.

  2. Alex K - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    This makes me think that the pitching coaches are to blame for Tillman taking a big step back, as well.

  3. randomdigits - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    It is starting to look like Conner got pushed out the door last month when he resigned.

  4. paperlions - Jul 29, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    All players should listen to their coaches no matter what, they obviously know better than you because…you know…they were all fantastic, successful, talented ML players. Just because what you are doing was good enough to get you to the top of your profession by the time you are 22 or 23 yrs old doesn’t mean you shouldn’t totally change everything so that your coaches/manager can “fix” the things that have been so successful for you.

    Coaches are capable of doing more damage than good by tinkering with mechanics/approaches. There is a reason players in some systems under perform or never develop and players in other systems regularly develop more quickly and exceed expectations…..a large percentage of coaches have little idea what they are doing and tinker too much, trying to make every pitcher/hitter use the same mechanics/approaches, which is beyond moronic.

    Tyler Matzek says hi from the Rockies minor league system.

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