Saturday, March 20, 2010
Mike Mussina's Shadow
Most Baltimore Orioles fans are aware that the club has turned to growing pitching arms over the past few seasons under club general manager Andy MacPhail. The club has promoted their young pitchers, but has let it be known that they will be careful with their young arms, and not promote them get to the big leagues until they are absolutely ready to compete at the highest level.
Perhaps no Oriole youngster is as good as left-hander Brian Matusz.
Matusz, 23, was drafted out of the University of San Diego in the first round, fourth overall, in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft. He was known for his three above average pitches, with the fourth pitch being a slider that he was still working to perfect.
Matusz started his professional career in high single-A Frederick, and he didn't disappoint the Orioles. Matusz went 4-2 with a 2.16 era in a little over 60 innings pitched. With his success came a promotion to double-A Bowie, where he thrived even more. He went 7-0 with a 1.55 era. When the Orioles ran out of pitchers because of injuries in August, MacPhail didn't have too many other options other than Matusz. Matusz struggled for his first few starts, but then started figuring it out. His alst three starts he went seven innings and allowed three or less runs.
Matusz was shut down in September to avoid wearing down the way many young pitchers do when they go over a certain amount of innings. He has picked up right where he left off in spring training 2010.
Known for his cool demeanor and pitching savvy, Matusz has been nothing short of impressive this spring. He has a 2.51 ERA, 18 k's, and has allowed seven hits in 14 and 1/3 innings. Matusz has always missed a lot of bats with his stuff, but it's the way he thinks through at-bat's that impresses me the most. He is the left-handed version of Mike Mussina, and he hits the black with regularity, and he knows what to thrown, when to throw it, and to whom he is throwing it to.
I've heard comparisons of Matusz to future hall of famer and former Atlanta Brave and New York Met Tom Glavine. Glavine was a very good pitcher during the 1980's and 1990's, but I don't believe he had the complete package that Matusz has. Am I saying that Matusz will win over 300 games and win multiple Cy Young Awards? No. Those feats are very rare, and most of the time it takes a lot of good fortune to reach those milestones. I do, however, believe that Matusz has the ability to be the ace of the Orioles staff and win between 15-20 games each season for the next decade barring injury.
The Orioles preaching of growing arms is bound to pay off. They are stockpiling the arms the way good pitching teams need to, especially those who cannot buy pitching like other teams.