Matt LaPorta was already facing an uncertain future in Cleveland after repeatedly struggling in various stints with the Indians and now he’ll have to come back from hip surgery. Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports that LaPorta underwent surgery yesterday to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and “will need three to four months…
It was a long, strange trip for Brian Matusz and the Orioles. In the spring of 2009, manager Dave Trembley was excited because, in his words, “The cavalry is coming.”
After a long spell of losing seasons and an even longer minor league career, the Orioles and Trembley hoped to reap the benefits of a group of talented minor league pitchers.
More than seven years later, only Chris Tillman remains from that group.
While Matusz and Tillman stayed with the team the longest, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez all had their shots.
Strangely, Trembley probably got to see Matusz at his hottest.
After 19 minor league starts in 2009, the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft was rushed to the Orioles and teased Trembley with a 5-2 record and 4.63 ERA.
By June of the following season, Trembley was gone and Matusz was back to teasing. When Buck Showalter arrived two months later, he teased the new manager, too.
Matusz went 7-1 under Showalter, and then 2011 happened.
A 1-9 record with a horrifying 10.69 ERA, and back to the minors.
After another chance in 2012, Matusz was sent to Norfolk by midseason and when Troy Patton was injured in a freak accident, he hurriedly re-invented himself as a situational left-hander, and nearly four years later, that’s where he stands—against his will.
It was ridiculously early to typecast Matusz as a situational lefty at age 25, but the Orioles were left with no choice.
Matusz hasn’t started a major league game since July 1, 2012, and that gnawed at him. He thought he would be traded in March 2015, but that never happened, and while he played the good soldier, he looked forward to free agency this fall so he could show another team that he was a legitimate major league starter.
Ironically, the team that traded for him, the Atlanta Braves, employ Trembley as their minor league guru, but he won’t be stopping there.
The Braves didn’t want Matusz to join their cadre of ex-Orioles: Nick Markakis, Bud Norris, Jim Johnson and Kelly Johnson. They really wanted the Orioles’ pick in the Competitive Balance round, the 76th overall, and they’d gladly eat the nearly $3 million that was remaining on Matusz’s contract.
The Orioles picked up two decent, but not show stopping prospects to add to a farm system badly in need of more arms.
Most important, they rid themselves of Matusz, who manager Buck Showalter didn’t want to use. Matusz had to start his season on the disabled list, and stayed longer on a rehab assignment than expected because he didn’t perform well in Bowie.
He gave up eight runs on 11 hits and walked seven in six innings, and the Orioles simply couldn’t go with him any longer.
Almost immediately after the trade, the Braves designated Matusz for assignment, and once he clears waivers, will search for a team that will allow him an opportunity to start.
For the Orioles, Matusz was a disappointment. Much more is expected from the fourth overall draft choice, but Showalter found ways to use him.
He was terrific against David Ortiz, who was 4-for-29 with 13 strikeouts, and Nick Swisher had just one hit in 22 at-bats. He was also great against Brett Gardner and Josh Hamilton (a combined 3-for-33).
But, in the end there weren’t enough hitters Matusz was successful against, and his time in Baltimore ends.
He leaves behind many friends through his work with children’s charities, and many who will be rooting for a fresh start as a starter.
Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks are now one win away from meeting in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs:
Lessons for Willy: Did you notice that former Capitals right wings Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer each scored goals Monday night by batting pucks out of the air?
NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick noted that both players must have played baseball growing up. What he didn’t point out was that both goals came from about a stick length away from the goal line.
Those goals are exactly the kind the Capitals were missing in their six-game loss to the Penguins in Round 2 and the kind of goals they want Tom Wilson scoring next season. Those goals don’t just happen; they are the result of hours and hours of repetition in the summer months.
By the way, Brouwer now has eight goals and 13 points in 19 playoff games for the Blues. That’s one more goal than he had in his first 78 career playoff games with the Blackhawks and Capitals. His post-season production is adding about a million a year onto his next free-agent contract.
Ward, who has two years left on his deal in San Jose, has four goals and nine points in 17 playoff games for the Sharks.
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Rooting interests: Last week, I asked Caps left wing Jason Chimera if he was rooting for Ward or Brouwer in the Western Conference Final. After some prodding he said Ward, because he’s never won the Stanley Cup.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with Justin Williams at the beginning of this season. (Ironically, I’ve had the good fortune of reporting on Williams’ first NHL game and his 1,000th). When I told Williams I root for people, and not teams, and that I was happy to see him win the Cup three times, he quipped, “What about the (jerks)? Do you root for them?”
Fortunately, there aren’t many in this sport. Ward and Brouwer are both quality people, but I’m with Chimera. I’d like to see Ward hoist that big silver chalice.
Statistically speaking: Per Elias, when teams are tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoffs series, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 192-53 (78.3 percent).
But here’s a more interesting stat from this spring: Road teams have won 41 of 82 games this postseason after winning only 38 contests during the entire 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs (38-51). So much for home-ice advantage.
Final word: I’ve always been a big proponent of finding a No. 1 goaltender in the playoffs and sticking with him, even after a lopsided loss.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan took calculated risks when they replaced Brian Elliott and Matt Murray with Jake Allen and Marc-Andre Fleury following Game 4 losses.
Facing elimination, the two coaches must weigh the options of sticking with Allen and Fleury or going back to Elliott and Murray. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I’ve always said that if you think you have two No. 1 goalies, you really don’t have any.
That’s why Martin Jones, who has started all 17 playoff games for the Sharks and has won 11 of them, has the best chance to win it all.
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Is a 4,000-yard passing season finally in the cards for Joe Flacco?
Though eight NFL seasons, Flacco has yet to throw for 4,000 yards in any year. He has come close – 3,986 yards in 2014, and 3,912 yards in 2013. And Flacco was on pace to pass throw for more than 4,000 yards last season, before his season-ending knee injury in Week 11.
Here are three reasons why I think Flacco will finally break the 4,000-yard barrier in 2016:
1. The time Flacco misses during OTA’s won’t matter.
Flacco is still not ready to participate in this week’s OTA’s after surgery, but the Ravens hope he will be on the field when training camp begins in late July. That should be plenty of time for Flacco to build chemistry with targets he has never lined up with like wide receivers Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, and Breshad Perriman, and tight end Ben Watson. By Week 1, Flacco will have more than enough practice reps to be ready.
2. The Ravens’ passing attack should be more explosive.
If they stay healthy, Wallace, Moore, and Perriman will give the Ravens big-play capability. Last season, the Ravens were forced to be methodical, and Flacco’s ability to throw deep was often wasted. Now he has more legitimate deep weapons.
3. Having the same coordinator should help the offense evolve.
The switch from Gary Kubiak to Marc Trestman as offensive coordinator was an adjustment last year, and there were some growing pains. Trestman and Flacco will begin the 2016 season with a comfort level they didn’t have last season. While the Ravens are committed to improving their running game, Trestman is not shy about throwing the football. Twelve quarterbacks threw for more than 4,000 yards last season. I think Flacco will join that list in 2016.
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