Orioles have a keeper in Brian Matusz
Rookie left-hander will start the regular season as the Orioles' No. 4 starter
Asked to describe his arsenal of pitches, Baltimore Orioles 23-year-old left-hander Brian Matusz politely declined to answer, and instead acted coy. Matusz feared that revealing too much could give hitters an advantage.
"I'm still trying to get some guys out," he reasoned.
After just one season of professional baseball, Matusz hasn't had much trouble getting guys out. A first-round pick (No. 4 overall) out of the University of San Diego in 2008, Matusz in his first season of professional baseball last year blazed through two levels of Baltimore's minor league system and made his major league debut on Aug. 4 against the Detroit Tigers. In his debut, Matusz allowed just six hits and one run in five innings and earned the win against the Tigers.
Matusz ended his first major league season with a 5-2 record and a 4.63 ERA in 44 2/3 innings. As a precaution, the Orioles shut down Matusz at the end of the September to avoid giving him a heavy workload in his first year. As a result, the innings limit put upon him by the Orioles also kept Matusz eligible for the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2010.
This spring, Matusz solidified a rotation spot with a 3.10 ERA in the Grapefruit League, and he is slated to start Baltimore's third game of the year on Thursday, April 8, against the Rays.
Matusz will enter the 2010 season as a heavy favorite to win the rookie of the year award, which would make him Baltimore's first individual award winner since Cal Ripken won the MVP Award in 1991.
Though Matusz won't describe his pitches, several metrics peg him as a fastball, changeup, slider and curveball pitcher. PitchFx registered his fastball as averaging 91.5 mph last year.
Regardless, Matusz is likely to make such an impression this year that he won't remain a mystery for long.
Jorge Arangure Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.