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Is Brian Matusz On His Way to Baltimore?

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Brian Matusz #86 of the Baltimore Orioles poses during photo day at the Orioles spring training complex on February 23, 2009 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Allen PopelsCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2009

Speculation is running rampant in Baltimore that the Orioles are planning on calling up Brian Matusz to start this Tuesday in Detroit.

The team has an opening in the rotation to fill after they placed Brad Bergesen on the 15-day disabled list with a shin injury.  Just how long Bergesen plans to be out may have a direct impact on Matusz.

If he's only going to miss one or two starts, the team could choose to fill the rotation spot with a short-term fix.  Brian Bass or Mark Hendrickson, both long relievers on the club, would be the options if the team wanted to use someone on the current 25-man roster.  However, should Bergesen be out longer, the team would need a more permanent solution.

Enter Matusz, the team's first-round selection in the 2008 draft.  The 22-year-old phenom was recently rated as the ninth best prospect in the major leagues by Baseball America. 

In his first season of professional baseball he has dominated opponents.  At single-A, he was 4-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 11 starts before earning a promotion.  He's put up even better numbers at double-AA Bowie, compiling a record of 7-0 with a 1.55 ERA in eight starts.  Overall he has struck out 121 batters this season while walking only 32.

This consideration to call-up Matusz so soon comes as a surprise.  When questioned this year about his elite prospect, team president Andy McPhail said that he would not see action in the big leagues this season.  However, today he said it's a, "strong possibility" that he would be considered to be promoted in place of Bergesen.

"It's a 'We're keeping our options open', but yes, that is a strong possibility," McPhail added.

"I think we're considering a lot of people, both on the club and in the minor league system," said manager Dave Trembley.  "It's been a philosophical debate.  I was in Andy McPhail's office yesterday when he called the minor league people and asked their input.  He came down yesterday to both myself and [pitching coach Rick] Kranitz, asked our input.  I'm sure we'll come up with a decision."

It's the age old question in baseball.  Do you risk bringing up a prospect earlier than you had planned and hope he can make the necessary adjustments at the big league level?  Or do you go the safer route and use a veteran placeholder in order to continue Matusz's development as planned?

The Orioles have two days to decide.

Follow Allen Pope on Twitter at http://twitter.com/allenpope.

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