Steven Matz has endured one of the most stressful and unexpected journeys of any player in the New York Mets farm system. Selected in the 2nd round in the 2009 MLB Draft, it’s taken Matz four years to pitch in full-season ball. But he’s finally here.
After Tommy John surgery and two years of rehab, Matz debuted with Kingsport in 2012. Matz impressed in 6 starts, striking out 34 in 29 innings of work, while keeping opponents hitting .158. On the bad side, he was prone to giving up the walk, walking 17 in his limited innings. Matz was temporarily shut down with arm troubles and understands that the 2013 season is important for him.
“I just want to play the whole season healthy,” said Matz. “And keep my walks down. Those are my two main goals.”
Walks were a concern while Matz was with Kingsport, but he seems to have fixed the issue at Savannah. Matz and the Mets decided recently that they wanted to scrap the curveball. “The [curveball] wasn’t consistent. I just wanted a breaking ball that I can throw more for a strike.”
“The organization, him, and I. Basically what it is is like a slurve, a hard curveball, but we’re calling it a slider. It’s got late break, depth, but it goes according to his arm slot with a fastball and change-up. It’s the absolute perfect pitch to throw at the arm slot he is at,” said Viola. “And he can throw it two ways, as a strike pitch or a put away pitch. The more he throws it, the better he develops it, the more he can put two together and really make that a very advantageous pitch.”
Matz admits his best off-speed pitch is his change-up. In his outing on April 26 against West Virginia, Matz said he threw 17 changeups. “I don’t really have a true strikeout pitch,” said Matz. “I can get a lot of guys to chase on a high fastball.”
In that West Virginia start, Matz struggled to stay in the game. He was yanked after reaching his pitch count in 4.1 IP, allowing two earned runs on four hits, while talking two and striking out three. Frank Viola believes that start was the start of a new side to Matz.
“The other night was the first night I saw any resemblance of anger, feistiness, what have you. He had to leave, came out in the fifth inning, and had the no-decision because he didn’t complete the five innings because of the pitch count,” explained Viola. “And he threw the glove down, said a couple of choice words, but it was the first time I saw a little fire in his belly, which personally, is a great sign in my opinion.”
“I know it’s there and you have to realize, he’s played professional ball for 2 ½ years but he only has 10 professional starts. He’s had some experience but he doesn’t have a lot of experience from the mound itself. So every time on the mound is a learning experience and I think by the all-star break you are going to see a completely different Steven Matz.”
Viola hinted that Matz may not be around when the All-Star game comes around. Matz could be on the fast track to St. Lucie, but it all depends on whether the lefty can stay healthy. “I really believe he’s that close to really putting it together,” said Viola.
“Just to mentally keep it together with all the crap he’s gone through is pretty tough…You’re exactly right, many people wouldn’t be able to do that. He’s maintained it, he’s learned from it, and he’s using it to his advantage now.”