You've heard it a hundred times and from every beat writer or media outlet that covers the Orioles: Brian Matusz is the real deal.
And the reason you've heard it a hundred times: Spend 10 minutes with the young left-hander and you're blown away by Matusz's poise, confidence, and ease in a situation most 22-year-olds (hey, most anyone) wouldn't find as effortless as Matusz.
The rookie looked out over the crowd, giving fans self-assured eye contact, as he fielded questions at today's final ESPN Zone Orioles Q&A of the 2009 season.
Admitting to nerves and uncertainty at more than a few points in his professional baseball career and more than once during his Q&A today, you wouldn't have known it to look at him. He's either over the nerves or controls them as well as the four-pitch arsenal he uses on the mound.
"I'm just enjoying every day," Matusz said simply. "But this is just the beginning. As a kid, I don't think I realized [the dream of playing in the big leagues] was fathomable."
In discussing that dream-turned-reality during today's Q&A, Matusz turned to his mound counterpart, fellow rookie Matt Wieters on several occasions. He told fans of the growing connection between young pitcher and young catcher, acknowledging how hard the pair work together toward success when Matusz takes the mound.
"It's tough to be a catcher, run the staff, and hit from both sides of the plate," Matusz said of the weight that falls on Wieters' shoulders. "But he handles it, and we're really starting to get on the same page.
"With all the hype in coming up to the big leagues, I was pretty nervous and had a lot to deal with," Matusz continued. But with mentors and collaborators like Wieters and pitching coach Rick Kranitz, Matusz revealed how good he feels about his progress during his first season in the big leagues.
To put it all in perspective, Matusz repeated with a laugh a simple statement Wieters made when the left-hander first arrived in Baltimore: "If you miss your spot, they're gonna crush it," Wieters said. "If you hit your spot, they might crush it then too." With that and more advice from a cohesive clubhouse, Matusz appears to feel confident both on and off the mound as he closes out his 2009 season with the O's.
"I know we've had a losing season," Matusz said, "But I feel like it's all going to come together soon and Baltimore fans should have a lot of hope for the future."
After blazing through five cities in this year alone - Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota, Frederick, Bowie and Baltimore - Brian Matusz will head to Arizona to spend his offseason at Athlete's Performance with fellow O's Brian Roberts and Adam Jones.
Matusz noted that he'll be focusing on his flexibility this offseason - No matter how successfully he finished out his first season in the majors, Matusz is the kind of guy who believes there's always something to learn or improve on, so expect more from the southpaw come spring training 2010.
And expect more on Matusz from the ESPN Zone Q&A here in the Orioles Buzz coming soon...