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The Orioles selected starting pitcher Brian Matusz from the University of San Diego with the fourth overall pick in this year's MLB draft.

Matusz was named the Pitcher of the Year in the West Coast Conference during the spring. The 21-year-old left-hander was 12-2 with a 1.71 ERA and three complete-game shutouts in 15 games (14 starts) as a junior for the Toreros. In 105 innings, Matusz had 141 strikeouts with only 22 walks.

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Last season, Matusz was 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 123 innings. As a freshman in 2006, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound pitcher was 4-3 with a 4.25 ERA in 89 innings. He had 93 strikeouts in 89 innings that season.

For the second year in a row, contract negotiations between the Orioles and the team's first-round draft pick went down to the Aug. 15 deadline. Last year, the O's signed catcher Matt Wieters on the final day of talks.

Matusz worked out with the Aberdeen IronBirds before their season ended. He wasn't on the team's active roster, but Matusz still received valuable exposure to the minor leagues. He'll be pitching in the Arizona Fall League beginning in October.

I spoke with Matusz on the phone last week and asked him about his experiences with the IronBirds:

How is everything going now that the contract situation is settled?

Matusz: I'm excited to actually start playing baseball now. That's what I love to do most. It's definitely a relief to have the contract done and to be out here in Aberdeen working out with the team. I'm getting along with all the guys really well. It's just great to experience the minor league life a little bit and to see what it's like, so next year it's nothing new when I'm going into spring training. That way I'll know a lot of guys and I can get going with my career.

What are your plans for the near future? Have the Orioles told you where you'll be working out in the fall or winter?

Matusz: As of right now, I'm not definite on where I'm going to go. The plans are to be working out here with Aberdeen... head out to [the instructional league] in Florida for a short amount of time and then hopefully get into the Arizona Fall League. If not the Arizona Fall League, then it'll definitely be the [Hawaiian Winter League]. [Editor's note: It was announced after this interview that Matusz would be pitching in the Arizona Fall League.]

How are the workouts going at Aberdeen?

Matusz: I've been working with Scott McGregor, the [Aberdeen] pitching coach, a little bit. I haven't thrown any bullpens yet, but I have one scheduled. Hopefully I can just get back into the groove and get a good feel for all of my pitches again.

Which pitchers in the major leagues do you think you resemble?

Matusz: One guy I kind of emulate a little bit is [Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher] Cole Hamels. He's a lefty like myself. He works in the low 90s, works off his changeup, his breaking ball a lot and I think we have a lot of similar qualities. Hopefully someday I can be pitching in the major leagues like he is.

Do you have any sort of timetable for progressing through the minor leagues?

Matusz: That's up to the ballclub to decide where they want to move me, at what level and what track they want to put me on. I want to get to the major leagues as soon as possible, but I have to prove myself. Basically my thoughts are just to develop, to get better every day and to put myself into a situation where if I keep working hard I can be in the major leagues as soon as possible, so that I can have a long career.

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With the contract negotiations going right down to the Aug. 15 deadline, were you prepared to return to the University of San Diego for your senior year?

Matusz: Absolutely. Honestly, I wanted to go pro. I felt like I was ready, but if the negotiations weren't going well then I was definitely going to have that as an option to go back to San Diego for my senior year. But things went really well. I know it went down to the deadline, but I knew all along that we'd get a deal done. Both sides were working hard -- [Orioles president of baseball operations] Andy MacPhail and [scouting director] Joe Jordan with the club and then on my side with my agent and myself. Things just wound up working out really well for me.

You were introduced at Camden Yards during the Aug. 22 game against the New York Yankees. Describe your impressions of the stadium.

Matusz: It's awesome. Camden Yards is really the best stadium I've ever been to. It's just a gorgeous ballpark and the fans are great. I had a great time that day and I'm really looking forward to playing at that stadium.

In three years at San Diego, you had a pretty successful career with a lot of accolades. What do you need to do to translate that success to the professional level?

Matusz: It's all about just getting better every day, making adjustments. It's going to be different throwing to wooden bats and bigger, stronger hitters. I'm just really excited to get out there in order to see what it's going to take to improve each and every day and put myself in a situation where I can make it up to the major leagues as soon as possible.

To view a photo gallery of Brian Matusz, click here.

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