Matz Makes Long-Awaited Debut

KINGSPORT, TN - After being selected with the Mets' top pick in 2009 – 72nd overall – pitcher Steven Matz's bright future was dimmed by Tommy John surgery in 2010. A slow and arduous rehabilitation stint kept him out of commission for two years, but the left-hander is finally taking the mound once again in rookie-level Kingsport.

The 21-year old pitcher said "it feels really good" to be back in action on the mound. "It's been two – maybe three – years since I've played in a meaningful game. It's a huge weight off my shoulders."

Matz's 2012 debut comes after a 2011 season that was shut down for precautionary reasons after micro-sized tears formed in his elbow, but his coaches are cautiously optimistic about the pitcher's health this season.

Pitching coach Jonathan Hurst is aware of the toll Tommy John surgery can have on young players, both physically and mentally, and is looking to alleviate Matz from any concern.

"With him, he still has in his mind he doesn't want to get hurt again," Hurst said. "We've basically told him you've had the surgery, you went to the rehab, you've seen all the doctors, you've been cleared. Now get out there and let the ball go. Last thing we want is for him to start shortening up a lot and creating problems where he could re-injure himself."

Hurst added that Matz's mechanics are something the coaches "really tackled in extended" to ease the burden on the power pitcher's arm.

"We wanted to get a lot of that violence away, a lot of that hooking and pulling," Hurst added, "and now he's clean enough. He has really good mechanics right now."

Manager Jose Leger agrees that Matz's health is the most important issue moving forward.

"These guys that have had surgery in the past, the main thing is knowing how they are feeling," Leger said. ‘How do you feel?' is a question they will get tired of hearing, but it's not something we get tired of asking. It's our job to keep him healthy.

"It was a long process getting him ready, getting his arm to the shape it is now. It's now a matter of getting him strong again and getting his tendons to be the way they were."

Leger added that the current health concerns are precautionary.

"He's been throwing the ball hard," Leger added. "He hasn't had any problems, but we are keeping an eye on him and checking in is what we do to know how he is feeling and how he will develop."

Matz said he no longer feels the effects of the operation.

"There were lingering effects a couple months ago, but they finally went away completely," Matz revealed.

Once Leger moved past the cautionary discussion about health and durability, the manager was quick to praise what he has seen from out of Matz.

"I got a chance to see him in extended, and he was performing," Leger said. "He was abusing batters, basically. He's got a very heavy, live fastball, and when he is throwing it around the zone, he is hard to hit."

Matz's repertoire includes a strong fastball with velocity in the mid-90s. "Sometimes it sits around 94-95 mph, sometimes 91-92," Matz said.

Hurst claims that the organization has his velocity anywhere from 94 mph to as high as 98 mph on occasion, though he added that fastball command remains Matz's number one issue.

Matz also throws a changeup that both he and his coaches agree is his second best pitch rat the moment. "The changeup has really been developing. It's been a good pitch for him," Hurst said.

Matz rounds out his repertoire with a curveball, though Matz admitted the pitch is "a work in progress." He stated he no longer feels the effects of the surgery in his elbow when throwing the curveball, though, which should hasten the pitch's development.

Matz added he hopes to add a cutter or a slider in the near future.

Matz's first professional appearance came in a start against the Princeton Rays on June 20th. His line proved to be unimpressive: five runs [two earned] on four hits and four walks in 3.1 innings pitched, with two strikeouts. Leger was not overly concerned with the disappointing start.

"He was a little too anxious to be out there since the last time he pitched was 2010," Leger said. "We saw some good things. He tried to go after hitters. His command was not there, but he's been working hard, and that's the one thing we ask from our guys.

"He's one of those guys. He's one of our hard workers. You need to pull him instead of push him, and that's a good thing. He is definitely going to have a better next outing. I'm pretty positive about it."

The manager's prediction proved true. Matz fared better in his second outing against the Danville Braves, allowing just two runs [one earned] on three hits with five strikeouts in five innings pitched.

Leger is also optimistic about Matz's future with the organization.

"He had a good chance to make the Brooklyn team, but we were a little concerned since he hadn't pitched the last two years," Leger revealed. "We wanted him to start here and get his feet wet and get a feel for pitching professionally, but we know he is going to move up quick.

"He's got that kind of arm and that kind of stuff. He's got good secondary pitches, as well. He's probably going to have a couple more outings here and just like that, he'll be in Brooklyn."

Matz was more muted on his expectations.

"I'm just looking to keep my walks down and stay healthy the whole year," Matz said.

The 2009 pick concluded with relief how it felt to finally get his first professional games under his belt.

"Now I can just start to get better each time."

\r\n \r\n\r\nThe 21-year old pitcher said \"it feels really good\" to be back in action on the mound. \"It's been two – maybe three – years since I've played in a meaningful game. It's a huge weight off my shoulders.\"
\r\n
\r\nMatz's 2012 debut comes after a 2011 season that was shut down for precautionary reasons after micro-sized tears formed in his elbow, but his coaches are cautiously optimistic about the pitcher's health this season.
\r\n
\r\nPitching coach Jonathan Hurst is aware of the toll Tommy John surgery can have on young players, both physically and mentally, and is looking to alleviate Matz from any concern.
\r\n
\r\n\"With him, he still has in his mind he doesn't want to get hurt again,\" Hurst said. \"We've basically told him you've had the surgery, you went to the rehab, you've seen all the doctors, you've been cleared. Now get out there and let the ball go. Last thing we want is for him to start shortening up a lot and creating problems where he could re-injure himself.\"
\r\n
\r\nHurst added that Matz's mechanics are something the coaches \"really tackled in extended\" to ease the burden on the power pitcher's arm.
\r\n
\r\n\"We wanted to get a lot of that violence away, a lot of that hooking and pulling,\" Hurst added, \"and now he's clean enough. He has really good mechanics right now.\"
\r\n
\r\nManager Jose Leger agrees that Matz's health is the most important issue moving forward.
\r\n
\r\n\"These guys that have had surgery in the past, the main thing is knowing how they are feeling,\" Leger said. ‘How do you feel?' is a question they will get tired of hearing, but it's not something we get tired of asking. It's our job to keep him healthy.
\r\n
\r\n\"It was a long process getting him ready, getting his arm to the shape it is now. It's now a matter of getting him strong again and getting his tendons to be the way they were.\"
\r\n
\r\nLeger added that the current health concerns are precautionary.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's been throwing the ball hard,\" Leger added. \"He hasn't had any problems, but we are keeping an eye on him and checking in is what we do to know how he is feeling and how he will develop.\"
\r\n
\r\nMatz said he no longer feels the effects of the operation.
\r\n
\r\n\"There were lingering effects a couple months ago, but they finally went away completely,\" Matz revealed.
\r\n
\r\nOnce Leger moved past the cautionary discussion about health and durability, the manager was quick to praise what he has seen from out of Matz.
\r\n
\r\n\"I got a chance to see him in extended, and he was performing,\" Leger said. \"He was abusing batters, basically. He's got a very heavy, live fastball, and when he is throwing it around the zone, he is hard to hit.\"
\r\n
\r\nMatz's repertoire includes a strong fastball with velocity in the mid-90s. \"Sometimes it sits around 94-95 mph, sometimes 91-92,\" Matz said.
\r\n
\r\nHurst claims that the organization has his velocity anywhere from 94 mph to as high as 98 mph on occasion, though he added that fastball command remains Matz's number one issue.
\r\n
\r\nMatz also throws a changeup that both he and his coaches agree is his second best pitch rat the moment. \"The changeup has really been developing. It's been a good pitch for him,\" Hurst said.
\r\n
\r\nMatz rounds out his repertoire with a curveball, though Matz admitted the pitch is \"a work in progress.\" He stated he no longer feels the effects of the surgery in his elbow when throwing the curveball, though, which should hasten the pitch's development.
\r\n
\r\nMatz added he hopes to add a cutter or a slider in the near future.
\r\n
\r\nMatz's first professional appearance came in a start against the Princeton Rays on June 20th. His line proved to be unimpressive: five runs [two earned] on four hits and four walks in 3.1 innings pitched, with two strikeouts. Leger was not overly concerned with the disappointing start.
\r\n
\r\n\"He was a little too anxious to be out there since the last time he pitched was 2010,\" Leger said. \"We saw some good things. He tried to go after hitters. His command was not there, but he's been working hard, and that's the one thing we ask from our guys.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's one of those guys. He's one of our hard workers. You need to pull him instead of push him, and that's a good thing. He is definitely going to have a better next outing. I'm pretty positive about it.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe manager's prediction proved true. Matz fared better in his second outing against the Danville Braves, allowing just two runs [one earned] on three hits with five strikeouts in five innings pitched.
\r\n
\r\nLeger is also optimistic about Matz's future with the organization.
\r\n
\r\n\"He had a good chance to make the Brooklyn team, but we were a little concerned since he hadn't pitched the last two years,\" Leger revealed. \"We wanted him to start here and get his feet wet and get a feel for pitching professionally, but we know he is going to move up quick.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's got that kind of arm and that kind of stuff. He's got good secondary pitches, as well. He's probably going to have a couple more outings here and just like that, he'll be in Brooklyn.\"
\r\n
\r\nMatz was more muted on his expectations.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm just looking to keep my walks down and stay healthy the whole year,\" Matz said.
\r\n
\r\nThe 2009 pick concluded with relief how it felt to finally get his first professional games under his belt.
\r\n
\r\n\"Now I can just start to get better each time.\"
\r\n
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