Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz says he's been pain-free for six or seven days after a minor setback, and he's ready to take the next steps in his progression toward a return to the rotation.
Matusz reported to Camden Yards today after a stint at the minor league complex in Sarasota, where he's been rehabbing a strained intercostal muscle. He'll remain here for the rest of the homestand. What happens next is anybody's guess.
"I feel really good," he said. "I played catch three days in a row now and I feel like I'm on track. I really held back at one point in time there. I had thrown two days in a row and I went to throw a third day and it just didn't feel comfortable. It wasn't hurting or anything. I just felt discomfort. At that point we took a couple more days off for precautionary reasons, but the last three days have been very good. I think that's when Goose (Mark Connor) and Buck (Showalter) were talking and they wanted to get me here for the homestand so they could monitor me and kind of see where I'm at and evaluate me, and that way I'll know when I can start my sides or even rehab."
Matusz will throw from 120 feet tomorrow and Sunday. The Orioles will have to decide when he's ready for a bullpen session, and whether he'll accompany the team to Chicago, return to Sarasota or go on an injury rehab assignment.
"Tomorrow, we're going to play catch, probably up to 120 feet, and let it go a little bit and see how it feels and keep progressing day by day. Just staying positive about the whole situation," Matusz said. "I want to get out there as soon as I can, as fast as possible, but at the same time I don't want to take any steps backward."
Staying patient has been a challenge for Matusz, but he's also leery of having a setback.
"It's tough," he said. "No injury is easy, but this one, it's not an elbow or a shoulder, it's nothing that's super-serious. It's a back muscle. I want to get going. I feel good. My body feels healthy, I feel strong. I want to get out there and get on a mound. It's tough because I've got to be able to hold back a little. Time will take its place. We've just got to go day by day.
"I get so excited, I just want to get out there, but I've got to be able to take it day by day. That's all we can do. I can't start planning things out and saying, 'Oh, this is the day I want to be on the mound,' or, 'This is when I want to be in a game,' because every day is different. But right now I feel good. It's all positive.
"In a perfect world, I'll get in a nice routine here, continue my rehab, my lifting and shoulder exercises and throwing and just go day by day. Hopefully, at that point I'll be able to throw a side and Goose and Buck will have a better idea where they want to send me. But yeah, I'd like to get going on a rehab assignment."
Matusz only logged 13 2/3 innings in spring training, but he insists that he was built up and "ready to go for that first start in Tampa." Instead, he was scratched with back pain and sent for an MRI, leading to his stop on the disabled list.
"There were a couple setbacks with that line drive, the wart, things like that, but when it comes down to it, I'll still be on my regular routine - get my bullpen sessions in, throwing every day and built up to a good point," he said. "I don't know how that's going to change, me coming back now, but I don't think it's going to be as long as it would have been if I didn't build myself up this spring."