Q&A: J.R. Mathes

West Tenn left-hander J.R. Mathes is the current Cubs wins leader in the farm system through the first three months. Before giving up four runs in a win against Huntsville on Friday night, he had allowed one run total over his previous three starts.

The 24-year-old Mathes has a win in each of his last three outings with the Double-A club. He was named to the Southern League All-Star Game earlier this week and is 8-4 with a 3.14 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 18 walks in 97 1/3 innings.

We visited with Mathes on the eve of his start against the Stars on Friday night and asked his thoughts on his first Double-A season, and more.

Inside The Ivy: Congratulations on your all-star selection. Just put into words the kind of year you've had.

J.R. Mathes: From the get-go, I had one bad start (April 22 at Chattanooga), but I think that motivates me more than anything. Our pitching staff as a whole has been leading the league in ERA. We're all just sort of locked in.

Inside The Ivy: You've come on strong recently with the complete game the other night against Tennessee. Is there anything you've been doing differently in your last few starts?

J.R. Mathes: Yeah, actually, there is. I've been talking with my pitching coach (Mike Anderson) a lot and I've just let the instincts come out. I've always had conversations about the game and letting things come naturally instead of forcing something. I've gone out and depending on the opposing batter, I get a feel for what they're looking for. I've been throwing changeups all throughout the count recently as well as breaking balls. I've been mixing it up and am having great results doing it.

Inside The Ivy: Did the All-Star nod come as a surprise?

J.R. Mathes: I'd been working really hard and was hoping to get the honor. I'm the kind of guy that never expects anything, so when my pitching coach told me, I was very happy.

Inside The Ivy: It seems like every year there's always one pitching prospect that bypasses one of the lower levels. You seemed to do that last year when you went straight to Daytona after half a season.

J.R. Mathes: Yeah, I came out of college as a senior, so I had four years at the college level pitching. I had a really good season with Boise in '04 and then showed up in Spring Training and did the same thing – commanding my fastball and all of my pitches. I got the promotion to Daytona, which was exciting because from my understanding, pitchers rarely skip a whole level. So I was really pumped up and went to Daytona and had a good year. I was surprised to skip the Midwest League, but I'm thankful for it.

Inside The Ivy: The one bad outing you had was against Chattanooga, who seems to be the team to beat this year. What were you thoughts on them and were they the toughest team you've faced all year?

J.R. Mathes: Chattanooga is a great hitting team, but I'd have to say they probably aren't the toughest. I just had a really bad night and things didn't work out. One of the better teams I have faced is Jacksonville. They have a lot of talent and are always dominant. I pitched against Vero Beach last year so I knew what I was getting into with pitching to those guys this year. Chattanooga is a great team, but I'm looking forward to going back out against them and showing what I'm like on one of my better days.

Inside The Ivy: Remind our readers of your repertoire.

J.R. Mathes: I throw a four-seam fastball; a two-seamer that I throw a lot; a changeup; and regular breaking ball. Don't even ask me how fast I throw because I pay no attention to that! I'm not one of those guys that come out of the game and go right up to the guy and ask how hard I was throwing. I usually let the opposing team let me know if I throw fastballs by them.

Inside The Ivy: Tell us about the complete game (4 H, 0 R, 4 K, 0 BB) the other night.

J.R. Mathes: I had everything working. I was throwing my changeup and locating my fastball up and down. I ended up throwing 103 total pitches. As the season progresses, your pitch counts tend to go up at this level. That start, I felt like I really locked myself in. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career.

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