8:21pm: The Orioles received some bad news before their first game of the season this evening, as young lefty Brian Matusz will miss tomorrow's start with an injury to the intercostal muscle on the left side of his back. Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun caught up with president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who indicated that the injury could accelerate the team's timetable for top prospect Zach Britton.
"It could depending on what kind of news we get [about Matsuz] and how long term we’re looking," said MacPhail. "I was hoping [the injury] was an April Fool's joke."
As Tim Dierkes explained a week ago, the Orioles will have to wait until April 21st to call Britton up if they want to delay his free agency by a year. The 23-year-old southpaw was named the 28th best prospect in the game by Baseball America before the season, and they said he owns the "best sinker in the minor leagues" in the 2011 edition of their Prospect Handbook.
Britton split last season between Double and Triple-A, pitching to a 2.70 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9, though he generated 2.8 ground outs for every fly out. He also opened eyes with a stellar showing in Spring Training. Chris Tillman will start in Matusz's place on Saturday.