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Judging from yesterday's discussion about Brian Matusz, Orioles fans seem to be undecided on where the 21-year-old left-hander should start the 2009 season.

Let me clarify that I'm not saying it's best for Matusz to start next season at Single-A Frederick, but that's what the Orioles are likely to do. He'll celebrate his 22nd birthday in the beginning of February, so it's not like we're talking about a kid who is fresh out of high school. I think, however, the Orioles will take it slow with the 6-foot-5, 200-pound pitcher, and that's why I suggested that he'll spend at least half of the season with the Keys.

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Matusz already has a good level of experience from pitching in the West Coast Conference at the University of San Diego, as well as in the Arizona Fall League, but the Orioles have several other solid pitchers in the minor leagues. Matusz is one of their prized possessions, and they're not going to damage his career by rushing him through the organization if he's not completely ready. If Matusz shows that he's able to handle the competition in Frederick, they'll promote him to the Double-A Bowie Baysox and give him a bigger test.

Remember, the Orioles started catcher Matt Wieters at Frederick, and he played in college in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Georgia Tech. Wieters dominated in the Carolina League, but the Orioles didn't move him up to Bowie until the middle of the season. Throw in the fact that pitching is much different than hitting and the Orioles likely won't be moving quickly to promote Matusz.

Next, I'd like to hear your thoughts on right-handed pitcher Brad Bergesen.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound starting pitcher emerged as a viable candidate for the Orioles' rotation of the future with his breakout performance in Bowie during the 2008 season.

Bergesen, who was honored by the Orioles as the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year, established a franchise record for wins in a season by going 15-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) for the Baysox. The 23-year-old pitcher led the team with 148 innings, and he tossed three complete games. Before being promoted to Bowie, Bergesen was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in four games (three starts) for the Keys.

Still, I'm not convinced that Bergesen is worthy of being considered among the top pitching prospects in the organization. Although the Orioles' fourth-round pick in the 2004 MLB draft seems to have tremendous control – only 27 walks issued at Bowie in 2008 – he doesn't overpower hitters. Bergesen only had 72 strikeouts last season, so he's not as good at putting batters away as Matusz, Chris Tillman, David Hernandez and others.

Looking at his past statistics, it makes me wonder if Bergesen simply had an atypical season in 2008.

While splitting time between the Keys and Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds during the 2007 season, he was 10-9 with a 3.52 ERA in 25 starts. That doesn't look too bad, until you consider that he was only 3-6 with a 5.75 ERA in 10 starts with the Keys.

Bergesen had a 4.29 ERA in 18 games (14 starts) for the Shorebirds in 2006, and he was 1-3 with a 4.82 ERA in 15 starts for the short-season Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds during the 2005 season.

While I'm not sold on Bergesen's status as one of the best pitching prospects in the organization, I think he's earned his promotion to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. But I don't believe he's going to have statistics similar to his performance at Bowie in 2008.

Bergesen, in my opinion, will put up numbers closer to what Hayden Penn did for the Tides last season. Penn was 6-7 with a 4.79 ERA in 21 starts at Norfolk in 2008. He had 65 strikeouts and issued 35 walks in 99 2/3 innings.

Even though Bergesen will pitch more innings -- because he shouldn't miss time due to injuries like Penn -- I'd expect him to be 10-11 with a 4.50 ERA in 25 starts at Norfolk. He'll post a similar strikeout-to-walk ratio as Penn did in 2008 with the Tides.

What are your thoughts on Bergesen's future performance? Do you think he'll continue to pitch successfully as he climbs up the organizational ladder? Should he play with the Orioles at any point during the 2009 season?

Let me know your predictions for Bergesen during the upcoming season, as well as how you think he'll perform over the rest of his career. Will he become a solid middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher for the Orioles in the future?

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Check out previous installments of "Predict the future" by clicking on the links below:

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