By the time the Baltimore Orioles were put on the clock for the fourth overall pick in the amateur draft it had been six years since they selected and signed a first round pitcher, Adam Loewen. The University of San Diego’s left-handed ace Brian Matusz thought he could be next one.
“I saw Baltimore up there with their five minutes on the television screen, and deep down inside I really thought I had an opportunity to become an Oriole,” Matusz told Inside The Warehouse. “I knew they had done a great job all year of scouting me and I met with [Orioles Director of Scouting] Joe Jordan and a lot of other gentlemen on the staff and had a really good meeting with them here in San Diego, so I really wasn’t sure up until that point. It was a very exciting time for me when they announced my name.”
However, this was not the first time Matusz had his name called in an amateur draft. The Angels picked him in the fourth round in 2005 out of high school, but Matusz says it was a completely different situation.
“In high school I wasn’t sure whether I was going to go to college or go pro, so I was able to set a number, and set it pretty high for myself. I knew that I wanted to go to college and I wanted to be able to have that experience and to grow as a person, and this ended up being the best decision of my life.”
In the three years Matusz spent as a Torero, he would become the best pitcher on the team. In 2007 he only trailed first overall pick David Price in strikeouts and would lead the nation in 2008 with 141 strikeouts in 105 innings, while issuing just 22 free passes.
“I was to be able to grow, to be able to balance my social life, academics, and baseball,” Matusz said. “It’s really been a great experience playing under Rich Hill, our head baseball coach, who’s done a great job of helping prepare the mental side of things.”
“Another part of being in college, I’ve put on a lot of weight, gotten a lot stronger. I spent a lot of time in the weight room just trying to get better every day. I’ve put on about 30 pounds since I’ve been in college. I’ve really taken it to the next level, been able to get better every year and develop myself as a player and person.”
Matusz, in addition to his mental preparation added two pitches to his repertoire to accompany his low to mid 90’s fastball and curveball, a slider and changeup. He said his changeup is his favorite pitch to throw, but told ITW that he feels comfortable throwing any of his pitches at any time.
“To be honest with you, I use all my pitches at any point in the count,” Matusz explained. “That’s where I’ve gotten a lot of success this year, it’s being able to keep a lot of hitters off balance and every time through the lineup I’m able to mix it up and do something different. Being able to locate four pitches on a consistent basis has been a main contribution to all my success.”
As the Orioles learned last year, high profile draft picks can take time to lock up, but Matusz is eager to bring his four-pitch arsenal to the Orioles.
“I’ve had my three years in college, it’s been a great three years, but I’m definitely excited to start my professional career and get up to the Major Leagues.”