After years of drafting inexperienced young high school prospects with high potential who ultimately never pan out, the Baltimore Orioles needed an experienced college player who was ready to make an impact and become a top-of-the-rotation starter the Orioles need.
Now, 14 months after the Orioles selected Brian Matusz, a left-handed pitcher out of the University of San Diego, with the fourth overall pick, it seems they’re making strides toward finally accomplishing their goal.
After just three seasons at San Diego, Matusz decided he was ready to become a major leaguer. In three college seasons, Matusz held a record of 26-8, his career being highlighted with a terrific junior campaign. In 2008, Matusz went 12-2 and was named Rivals.com Pitcher of the Year. He held an ERA of 1.71, while walking only 21 to go along with 141 strikeouts, leading the nation.
The Orioles are very excited to see the 22-year-old in action. They have a world of confidence in the young stud southpaw. After only 19 minor league appearances, Matusz will make his first start in the major leagues. Instead of promoting Matusz to Triple-A, they promoted him to the big time. He will pitch in Detroit Tuesday in what many hope to be the start to a very long and impressive career. Matusz has felt the pressure before in college and will need to handle it with composure once again, possessed with the notoriety of being a star-studded lefty in an organization desperate for young pitching.
It took the Orioles all the way up to the signing deadline to agree with Matusz, and when they did, they knew they had signed someone special. The 6’5”, 200-pound lefty was known for having a four-pitch arsenal, which has now grown into a five-pitch arsenal. Matusz will throw a two-seam and a four-seam fastball with his four-seam fastball consistently at 90 mph to 92 mph.
However, the lefty’s curveball is known at his best pitch. Baseball America refers to his curveball as a "plus pitch that he commands to both sides of the plate." Along with his curveball, Matusz will also mix in an above-average changeup and a solid slider, which he sometimes will use as an out pitch.
In a recent interview, Matusz talked about his pitches and the point in the game when he uses particular pitches.
"I throw a two-seam and four-seam fastball; I throw a changeup, a curveball and a slider. I use the slider as more of an out-pitch; the curveball I can use as an out-pitch as well as a set-up pitch—I feel like I've got very good command of it. My changeup I like to use at any time in the count; just depending on the hitter, I like to throw it to both lefties and righties. And obviously the fastball is the same thing—t can be a set-up pitch, it could be an out-pitch ... whatever is working that day. A good day for me is when I have everything going my way and I have a lot of options to work with."
The Orioles now have called up their "fabulous four." Nolan Reimold was the first Oriole to be called up, and he has made a major surge for American League Rookie of the Year. Matt Wieters, the No. 1 prospect rated by Baseball America going into the 2009 season, was called up in late May and has come along very well after a slow start (hitting .388 since July 20). Right-handed starter Chris Tillman, 21, was called up just a week ago and in two starts has shown the look of a real top-of-the-rotation pitcher.
Now, the Orioles are hoping the former Torero will bring a spark to the rotation and have enough effectiveness to stay there for a long, long time. In Matusz, the Orioles are not only hoping to get the team in the mindset of winning now, but for the rest of baseball to know that this team is ready to compete.
Matusz feels there is no reason why he can't succeed at the major league level. "I have been very confident from the Arizona Fall League to Double-A. I feel if I am on my game, I can succeed at any level."