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Matusz struggles as rotation battle nears close

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Left-hander Brian Matusz did not help his case Sunday in the Orioles' ongoing competition for a fifth starter, throwing four innings against the Pirates and allowing five earned runs on nine hits and a walk.

"Just went out there never found a rhythm and didn't pitch well," Matusz said of the start, which came against the same Pirates club that Jake Arrieta, who is also competing for a rotation spot, tossed six scoreless innings against Thursday. "I was able to get my work in, throw pitches and be able to use all four pitches, but I was just leaving the ball up in the zone and they were hitting it."

Two of the runs came off Andrew McCutchen's first-inning homer, and Pittsburgh added another pair of runs in the third with doubles from McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez. Neil Walker picked up an RBI on an infield hit that first baseman Travis Ishikawa dove to stop, but found no one covering the bag.

Matusz waited quite a while to take the mound after the Orioles plated eight runs in the top of the first inning, but didn't use that as an excuse. The 26-year-old also didn't think that the heightened competition, in which Arrieta is the frontrunner, means he has to pitch better than he normally would.

"I feel like every time I go out there I want to be the best I can be, stay within myself, and today, I didn't do that," Matusz said.

Matusz has a 4.26 ERA in six spring games -- four starts -- while Arrieta has a 1.56 ERA in five games -- four starts -- and will next pitch Tuesday in a Minor League game. Right-handers Steve Johnson and Jair Jurrjens, along with Rule 5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland, are still in the mix for the final rotation spot, and Matusz is expected to be in the bullpen if he doesn't make the starting five.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli.
Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Julio Rodriguez, Jair Jurrjens, Ronnie Welty, T.J. McFarland, Brian Matusz