Matusz gets first taste of Camden Yards

Matusz gets first taste of Camden Yards

BALTIMORE -- Don't take that kid's hat. First-round Draftee Brian Matusz met the media on Friday for the first time since signing with the Orioles, and he was told that he didn't have to keep his cap on after he'd worn it for a photo shoot. But Matusz, the fourth overall pick in June's First-Year Player Draft, opted to keep it on, prolonging the moment as long as possible.

The southpaw starter is in the fold, and he's looking forward to beginning his professional career. Most analysts think he can rise quickly to the big leagues, but he is willing to work for as long as it takes to make his debut.

"It's starting to feel like it's there, but I think it will hit me a little bit more when I get on the field for the first time," Matusz said during his news conference. "I head out to [Class A] Aberdeen tomorrow. I won't be playing with the team, but I'll be there dressing out. That will be exciting. I think that's when it will hit me, that now I'm playing professional baseball."

"This is an advanced amateur college pitcher," added Joe Jordan, Baltimore's director of scouting. "We're excited about getting him in the Draft, and as soon as we get him out and get him started, he'll get into the routine.

"He'll take care of his business. I do think it will be quick, but as far as a timetable, I don't know."

Matusz, who inked a Major League contract with a signing bonus worth $3.2 million, won't be playing in any full-season professional league until 2009. The Orioles expect him to begin play in either the Arizona Fall League or Hawaii Winter Baseball league, where top Draftee Matt Wieters got his feet wet after signing at last year's deadline.

The full-season debut will have to wait for next year, and Matusz said that he'd prefer to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this winter because of the level of competition and because he grew up in Phoenix. The left-hander, who starred at the University of San Diego before being drafted, is excited to begin his professional career and to be with Baltimore.

"Obviously, I've been playing at the college level, and one thing I'm excited about is pitching to wood bats," Matusz said. "Just being able to do it every day and handle the travel, the media, everything about it. It will be nice ... not having to go to class on the day you have to pitch. I had to pitch on Fridays, so I'd have to go to class and then have to get ready for a start. I'm looking forward to not having to do that and just focusing on baseball, working out and getting myself in shape."

Matusz hasn't thought about his timetable for making it to the big leagues as much as he's pondered the best way to prepare himself for each stop along the way. He met Hall of Famer and Baltimore broadcaster Jim Palmer on Friday and also spoke briefly with manager Dave Trembley, but Camden Yards was the starring attraction.

"It was a great experience," Matusz said of touring the Orioles' home stadium for the first time. "I've been waiting for this for a while. It's definitely been a long summer, but it's a process. I'm happy to be part of the ballclub now and to make it out here to Camden Yards, which is just a great stadium. I love everything about it so far. It's been a lot of fun."

Jordan, who generally shies away from comparing Draftees with current big leaguers, dropped a doozy on Matusz, saying that the prospect reminds him of Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels in terms of stuff. And Matusz agreed, saying that he's heard it before and that he's watched Hamels closely to ascertain what works for him at the big league level.

"I've been compared to him a lot the last few years [because of] the way Hamels works off of his changeup and his great breaking ball," Matusz said. "He works in the low 90s, and he's able to spot up all three of those pitches. That's one thing that made me successful in college, that I was able to throw four pitches for strikes."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.