Matusz bringing his AAA game

The first 5,000 fans to enter Harbor Park in Norfolk tonight will receive a Tides cap.

They'll also get to watch Brian Matusz pitch.

Matusz never made it to Triple-A before tonight. He moved up from Single-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie to the majors in his first professional season in 2009. He was part of the gifted and talented pitching program.

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Matusz returned to Frederick and Bowie on his injury rehab assignment. He'll finally pitch for Norfolk tonight in a 7:05 p.m. game against the Columbus Clippers.

The Orioles want Matusz to get his pitch count in the 90-100 range. They could activate him for Wednesday afternoon's game in Seattle that concludes their road trip or extend his assignment for one more start, depending on how he throws tonight.

It's not just the results that matter. Matusz and the Orioles looked beyond the box score after his six scoreless innings for the Baysox last Saturday. Matusz said he didn't have a good feel for all of his pitches, but he was real close to being ready.

My guess is he'll be ready after tonight and the Orioles will fly him to the West Coast. The debut that was scheduled for April 2 will take place two months later.

The Orioles will have to figure out a way to make room for Matusz in the rotation. Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton are secure. Chris Tillman doesn't pitch deep into games, but he's allowed only two runs in his last 16 innings.

I'd be more impressed if Tillman had accumulated those 16 innings over two starts instead of three, but he's still giving the Orioles a chance to win. And you'd probably take those numbers from your No. 5 starter.

I also should note that Tillman left his May 16 start in Boston after five scoreless innings because of tightness in his back, but he allowed five hits and walked three batters, so he was teetering.

Anyway, Brad Bergesen starts tomorrow night in Oakland after being skipped in the Kansas City series. Not to put more pressure on him, but he needs to be really, really good.

As long as I'm writing about Norfolk, I'll mention that Josh Rupe took the loss last night for the Tides after allowing four runs and four hits in 1 1/3 innings. His ERA's up to 9.45.

Chris Jakubauskas allowed one run and six hits over seven innings.

Double-A Bowie center fielder Xavier Avery extended his hitting streak to nine games yesterday by going 2-for-5 with a triple and two runs scored. He's batting .255.

Steve Johnson allowed one run and five hits, with no walks and seven strikeouts, over six innings. He's 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA and looking like a guy who's ready to take another crack at Triple-A hitters.

Matusz should be out of Norfolk's rotation by that time. (See how I tied it all together?)

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