So Brian Matusz gave up three runs. That matched the total runs he had given up in his three previous outings. They said he didn't have his best stuff, yet Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday went a combined 0-for-6 against him. All pitchers should struggle so. With a 3.10 spring ERA and 19 strikeouts to three walks in 20 1/3 exhibition innings, the kid is playing to rave reviews throughout Florida. Will fans get carried away with their expectations for the lefty? Am I Polish? Yes and yes. With that in mind, let's look further at Matusz and his great spring. I have a few questions for myself on this subject. Q - He's been outstanding in exhibition games. Why don't they just name him the Opening Day starter? A - Because Kevin Millwood was acquired to be the number one pitcher on the team, the leader of the staff and the Opening Day starter. Matusz's time for that will come, maybe as soon as next year. Q - Yes, but isn't he the best pitcher on the team right now? A - He might be, but for the good of his development, I don't think they should anoint him the ace or number one starter right now. He has made only eight Major League starts. Q - What is his best pitch? A - For me, it's his changeup. But what makes him a special pitcher is that he has four quality pitches and knows how to use them. It's obvious from his interviews and being around him last year that he's a very smart pitcher. It's that combination of smarts, savvy, work ethic and a real talented left arm that come together to make him one of the game's best young pitchers. Q - Can he win 20 games this year? A - No. Well, probably no. You can't 100 percent rule it out. But first, you usually need to play for a winning team to get a high win total and the O's may not be there yet. Secondly, it's hard for anyone on any team to win 20 anymore. If you make every start all year, that's probably only 33 starts in a five-man rotation and it's hard to get 20 wins out of that. Last year, no one in the Majors won 20 and only four pitchers had more than 17 wins. Q - How many innings can he pitch this season? A - He threw 158 in 2009 between Frederick, Bowie and Baltimore. They should be able to add 20 or 30 to that this season for a total around 180 or so. That would be a real solid amount for his first full big league season. Q - Why is he still considered a rookie? A - Because he pitched fewer than 50 innings last year in the Majors. He had 44 2/3. Q - Did you see him pitch in the minors last season? A - Yes at both Frederick and Bowie and he looked great then too. Q - Is he Roch's favorite player? A - You'd have to ask him, but I'll bet he's right up there. Matusz was considered the best pitcher in the 2008 draft and so far, has easily lived up to any hype about him. O's fans who were frustrated when pitching prospects like Hayden Penn, Adam Loewen, Beau Hale, Chris Smith and Daniel Cabrera never achieved much at the big league level now get to watch maybe the O's best pitching prospect since, well, perhaps Mike Mussina. I'm not much for self promotion, but I will say I tabbed Matusz as the real deal before he ever threw a Major League pitch. Of course I wasn't alone in that regard. Click here to see what I wrote about Matusz last August 4, on the day of his Major League debut.
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