Stop me if you've heard this story before:
A highly-touted arm that was drafted in the early rounds of the amateur draft by the Orioles is rushed through the minor leagues. Once he reaches the Bigs, it turns out that although said pitcher has a million dollar arm and plus velocity, he has a hard time with his control. After being jerked back and forth between the Majors and the Minors, the pitcher never really settles into a groove and is later jettisoned out of frustration. You can almost hear the Orioles saying, "here, he's your problem now!"
Last time we heard this tale, Jake Arrieta ended up headlining one of the most lopsided trades in Cubs history, eventually posting Deadball era numbers on his way to the Cy Young Award. All it took was a little bit of tweaking in his delivery, courtesy of Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio and permission to dust off his cutter and just be himself.
Here's hoping that the reclamation project taking the mound for the Cubs today has a similar turnaround:
Brian Matusz (pronounded Matiss) was pushed on the Braves in a salary dump by the Orioles and was promptly DFA'ed. The Cubs later signed him as a free agent, buying in on his potential. Since then, he's been biding his time in the minors, "praying" for a chance to prove that he can make the adjustments needed.
Get it? A Praying Matusz! *crickets*
Anyway, the former first round draft pick has never been able to get everything to click at the Major League level. Here's hoping that a little "Bos-mosis" has even half as much of an effect on the lefty as it has Jake the Snake.
With his debut tonight, he becomes the 2,046th Cubs player in history and must be officially added to my CATRC binder. Luckily, when he was initially signed on June 14th, I pulled my Matusz cards from my Orioles trade fodder for potential inclusion:
Not a lot to choose from, but a couple is better than none. As much as I enjoy Triple Play for it's novelty factor, I have to go with the actual image of the man found on his 2010 rookie card for my prestigious binder - this is serious business, after all.
Here's hoping that Brian pitches well enough that he earns a true Cubs card in Topps Update later this year.
Anyway, this move comes at a fairly peculiar time. The Cubs are fresh off of the break with an off-day coming up soon, yet they feel inclined to insert a sixth starter for added rest right now? I suppose since the staff came limping into the All-Star Break, a little extra rest could pay big dividends in stretch run. That's not to mention the fact that he's pitched quite well at AAA Iowa - 2 starts with a 1.93 ERA and 3.67 strikeout to walk ratio in 9.1 innings pitched
Matusz also started one game for the AA Tennessee Smokies
Image courtesy of Mark Harris, the Tennesse Smokies and milb.com
However, I think the fact that this surprise bit of roster maneuvering comes the day before the big trade deadline has piqued the interest of spectators. Is he being showcased to included in a deal? Are the Cubs seeing if he'd be a capable replacement for a soon-to-be-traded asset? We shall see.
Regardless of the motivation, it probably doesn't hurt to see what they have in Brian. Worst case scenario, they DFA him and move on (no more minor league options). Maybe he can prove to be a capable lefty arm in the pen or, best case scenario, take to the Bos-mosis like Jake did.
In order to accommodate this little showcase, Theo and crew had to make another tough roster decision, based strictly on roster rules, much like they did in optioning Tommy La Stella to activate Chris Coghlan from the DL a few days ago. Justin Grimm had to be optioned to AAA, strictly because he has options remaining; his performance does not dictate this move. He'll definitely be back, in September (when the rosters expand) at the latest.
Or, perhaps both of these men will be in the pen after another trade deadline blockbuster shuffles the the proverbial deck - who knows?
At any rate, the lead up to August 1st is going to be quite interesting here on the North Side of Chicago. In the meantime, here's hoping the Brian Matusz can give a respectable performance on national television tonight against the Mariners. After yesterday's absolutely gut-wrenching loss, a series win sure would make everyone feel a little better.
We're praying, Matusz.