Matusz on Matusz

SARASOTA, Fla. - Brian Matusz retired six of the first seven batters he faced before the third inning. That's when his start took a turn for the worse.

"Just started leaving the ball out over the plate," Matusz said after allowing three runs and four hits. "Got a couple guys on base, and (Jim) Thome got up there and he's the type of hitter in that lineup who will hurt you and he did. Got a little erratic, but just battled my way through."

Thome drove a fastball over center fielder Xavier Avery's head for a two-run double.

"My stuff wasn't as sharp today," Matusz said. "Just some things I'm working on a little bit. Wasn't all there. But I was able to just battle and keep going.

"I was rushing a little bit. Rushing my delivery. I wasn't able to settle in with something that felt good. Felt like I was battling all game. Just kept battling, kept attacking the zone."

At least Matusz got his pitch count up to 83, though he wanted to last longer than 4 2/3 innings.

"There's positive in every negative," he said. "I didn't get as many innings as I wanted to, but I was able to get the pitch count up. Something to work on for my next outing.

"I'm right on track to continuously staying healthy and building my pitch count up. I'm looking forward to my next outing."

Matusz faced the Phillies for the third time this spring. Asked about the difficulty in seeing the same opponent that many times, he replied, "It's going to happen in the regular season, facing the Yankees, Red Sox, Tampa and Toronto, so it doesn't really matter the opponent. It's still pitching, regardless of who the opponent is."

Matusz remains in the running for a rotation spot, but he doesn't know whether he's done enough to solidify it.

"That's out of my control," he said. "You (reporters) ask me that every time. My job is to go out there and pitch every five days and let the coaches do their part.

"Yeah, I'm definitely progressing. Through the course of the season there's always going to be mechanical things that come off a little bit. So it's just a battle and a grind to keep those things tight. And I've definitely got some things to work on this week."

Meanwhile, the Orioles continue to trail the Phillies, 3-2, in the eighth.

Jason Berken made his spring debut in the sixth and retired three straight batters after a leadoff double by Carlos Ruiz. He struck out one.

Scott Beerer doubled and Ronny Paulino singled off Roy Halladay in the seventh, but Antonio Bastardo (best ... name ... ever) replaced him and struck out the next two batters.

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