Matz Breaking Free

It took left-hander Steven Matz essentially three years to do it but he finally made his professional debut this past season. The 2009 first round pick took a while to come back from his Tommy John surgery and even experienced some pain as late as earlier this year, but after finding some success in 2012 and getting some innings under his belt, he says he believes his injuries are behind him.

He made just six starts for the Kingsports Mets and was shut down prematurely after getting some shoulder inflammation, which was quite natural considering he had missed so much time over the years. While he would have liked to finish out the season, he can't help but feel a sense of relief that he got his debut out of the way.

"It was pretty exciting," Matz said. "It was a big relief to finally get out there and compete in a winning situation. It was a good relief to get back out there finally after two and half years or whatever it was."

It didn't appear it would go as well as hoped right out of the gate, however. Matz had experienced some elbow tightness back in April right at the beginning of Extended Spring Training.

"My elbow was still bothering me in Spring Training and I was just hoping that it would be gone because I took a lot of rest last offseason," he said. "That was my main focus last offseason, just getting rest and letting the elbow calm down.

"I was a little disappointed in the beginning that my elbow was still bothering me and then it just went away. After that I was real happy with the way the season ended up.

"I went to see Dr. Andrews [in the middle of April] and he said 'there's a possibility that we'll have to open you up and re-do the Tommy John'," he revealed. "He told me to get out there one last time and it's either going to hold up or it isn't, but just let it rip.

"I did that and it just broke free. It was pretty cool."

It did break free in kind of a big way too. He almost immediately regained his plus velocity, sitting mostly in the 92-96 mph range in his debut season this year and topped out at 98 mph a couple of times.

While he readily admits he still has a ways to go towards gaining confidence in throwing his breaking ball with command, Matz believes he is on the right track with his stuff, command, and most importantly, his health.

"That's why I'm in Oklahoma right now working out at this place called the Devon Boathouse," he said. "The guy's name is David [Rainbolt], he trains a lot of Olympic athletes.

"My agent is pretty good friends with him and he's a rehab-strength and conditioning guy. He'll stretch you out, work on you, so I think that's going to be huge for me. That could be why my command is off, because I'm tight somewhere or I can't clear my hips or something like that.

"It's just getting my body healthy. I want to pitch at least 100 innings next year, that's going to be my goal."

Finally getting some innings under his belt and healthy enough to get some real work in, he believes he is better prepared for his first full season and he's encouraged for his prospects going forward.

"Yeah, especially with this, just after a week of being here and stretching me out, I can already tell my shoulder has loosened up and it's not going to be as tight.

"That's really going to help me out in the back-end of the season. I'm pretty excited about this next season coming up, hopefully it has good things ahead of it," he concluded.

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