Matz Throwing Better Than Ever

SAVANNAH, GA - Every year, hundreds of high-school seniors receive phone calls from Major League Baseball clubs who seek to offer them the chance of a lifetime: the chance to play professional baseball. Steven Matz was one of those lucky high school seniors in 2009 when he heard his name called in the second round of the MLB Amateur Draft.

The then 18-year-old from East Setauket, New York would have the chance to play in the New York Mets organization. Matz's road to playing professional baseball, however, would not be an easy one.

Less than a year after Matz joined the Mets organization, he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. The young lefthander was forced to put his promising career on hold, and devote his life instead to long months of rehab.

After working tirelessly in rehab to recover from the surgery, Matz made six appearances in short-season ball last year, but was limited in what he could do on the mound.

Four years after being drafted by the Mets, the now 21-year-old southpaw has finally begun his first full season of professional baseball, and it's safe to say that the hardships he faced early on in his career are now in the rearview mirror.

Matz has landed a spot in a powerful starting rotation in Savannah, and has made an immediate impact on the club.

After 14 innings of work so far this season, Matz currently boasts a 1.29 ERA and has recorded 18 strikeouts while giving up only three runs. Matz said that he's happy with how he's performed so far this season, and that he's determined to keep improving in his first full season of professional baseball.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Matz said. "I'm throwing a lot more strikes than last year, which is huge for me, just pounding the strike zone and keeping my walks down, so I'm pretty happy about that. But there are still a lot of improvements left to be made."

Sand Gnats pitching Coach Frank Viola said that Matz's first outing was a little shaky, but added that he is excited about the progress that Matz has made in the short time since then.

"His first [start] was just a little rocky, but his last two [starts] he's thrown 81 pitches, gotten through five innings, and each time he's getting stronger," Viola said.

The recovery process was long and difficult for Matz, but now that he is back to full strength, Viola said that he will develop quickly and that he is prepared to take on his first full season.

"He left St. Lucie for the first time with a full-season club, so we're treating him like everybody else," Viola said.

"By the time he makes his next start, I'm gonna give him 90 pitches. As long as he's throwing strong and he still has something after 90 pitches, then we'll get him to 95 and then to 100 just like everybody else," Viola added.

Now that Matz has some experience under his belt, he said that he is focusing on honing all of his pitches and developing his repertoire.

"My fastball averages around 93," Matz said. "My curveball/slider is kind of a hybrid, breaking ball type pitch, and it's a work in progress. I've been able to throw it for strikes this year which has helped me. I'm throwing a two-seamer now which has helped me out a lot with ground balls. The changeup has always been there, I just need to throw it more."

Viola said that Matz's pitches are where they need to be, but added that Matz needs to get more comfortable with throwing his offspeed pitches more frequently in games.

"A couple of weeks ago he changed from a curveball to a slider," Viola said. "With his arm slide, he's much better-suited to throw a late-breaking-with-depth slider than he does with a slow curveball, so we've been working on that. It's getting better. We had a side [the other day] and he threw the ball outstanding, so now we just need to carry it into the game."

Viola added that he is impressed with the development of Matz's fastball, which he believes will be very effective for him in the future.

"He's got a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball and they both go between 92-96 mph. He's just got a live arm. The ball comes out of his hand real well when he gets on top of it," Viola said.

With 18 strikeouts in 14 innings of work, Matz certainly hasn't put any sort of burden on his defense in his early starts this season. Matz said that he's focusing on keeping his pitches low in the zone to force more groundballs, and added that the strikeouts tend to come naturally when he locates his pitches well.

"Coming out of high school I just wanted to strike everybody out, but I've realized that that's not going to happen in professional baseball, so groundballs are huge," Matz said.

"You want to keep balls on the ground because you can't really get hurt too bad, and then the strikeouts just kind of come when you're trying to get ground balls. Your pitches start to get more effective. You're down in the zone and that's probably why the strikeouts have been coming."

Viola agreed that Matz shouldn't be too concerned with striking batters out, and said that he just wants him to focus on working efficiently.

"I'm old school. I like to see the least amount of pitches possible to get the outs, but he's capable of striking guys out if need be, and that's a nice gift to have in your back pocket," Viola said.

Recovering from Tommy John surgery is difficult for any pitcher, let alone on one straight out of high school, but it certainly appears that Matz has worked hard on a speedy recovery, and that he is prepared to tackle his first full season on the mound in Savannah.

Although Matz faced major setbacks in the earliest stages of his professional career, he has overcome them to once again be known as one of the most exciting prospects in the Mets organization.

There is still a long road ahead for Matz, but he has already taken great leaps to bounce back into a promising career. The general feeling in the Sand Gnats clubhouse is that Matz is prepared to thrive and move up the ladder in the Mets organization.

"The big thing for Steven (Matz) is that every time he goes out it's a learning experience because he's still playing catch-up with these other guys that have started 20 to 25 games a year," Viola said.

"But I'll tell you what," Viola added, "he's a very smart, intelligent kid with a great gift, and even after overcoming Tommy John he's throwing better than ever."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nThe then 18-year-old from East Setauket, New York would have the chance to play in the New York Mets organization. Matz's road to playing professional baseball, however, would not be an easy one.
\r\n
\r\nLess than a year after Matz joined the Mets organization, he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. The young lefthander was forced to put his promising career on hold, and devote his life instead to long months of rehab.
\r\n
\r\nAfter working tirelessly in rehab to recover from the surgery, Matz made six appearances in short-season ball last year, but was limited in what he could do on the mound.
\r\n
\r\nFour years after being drafted by the Mets, the now 21-year-old southpaw has finally begun his first full season of professional baseball, and it's safe to say that the hardships he faced early on in his career are now in the rearview mirror.
\r\n
\r\nMatz has landed a spot in a powerful starting rotation in Savannah, and has made an immediate impact on the club.
\r\n
\r\nAfter 14 innings of work so far this season, Matz currently boasts a 1.29 ERA and has recorded 18 strikeouts while giving up only three runs. Matz said that he's happy with how he's performed so far this season, and that he's determined to keep improving in his first full season of professional baseball.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm feeling pretty good,\" Matz said. \"I'm throwing a lot more strikes than last year, which is huge for me, just pounding the strike zone and keeping my walks down, so I'm pretty happy about that. But there are still a lot of improvements left to be made.\"
\r\n
\r\nSand Gnats pitching Coach Frank Viola said that Matz's first outing was a little shaky, but added that he is excited about the progress that Matz has made in the short time since then.
\r\n
\r\n\"His first [start] was just a little rocky, but his last two [starts] he's thrown 81 pitches, gotten through five innings, and each time he's getting stronger,\" Viola said.
\r\n
\r\nThe recovery process was long and difficult for Matz, but now that he is back to full strength, Viola said that he will develop quickly and that he is prepared to take on his first full season.
\r\n
\r\n\"He left St. Lucie for the first time with a full-season club, so we're treating him like everybody else,\" Viola said.
\r\n
\r\n\"By the time he makes his next start, I'm gonna give him 90 pitches. As long as he's throwing strong and he still has something after 90 pitches, then we'll get him to 95 and then to 100 just like everybody else,\" Viola added.
\r\n
\r\nNow that Matz has some experience under his belt, he said that he is focusing on honing all of his pitches and developing his repertoire.
\r\n
\r\n\"My fastball averages around 93,\" Matz said.\r\n\"My curveball/slider is kind of a hybrid, breaking ball type pitch, and it's a work in progress. I've been able to throw it for strikes this year which has helped me. I'm throwing a two-seamer now which has helped me out a lot with ground balls. The changeup has always been there, I just need to throw it more.\"
\r\n
\r\nViola said that Matz's pitches are where they need to be, but added that Matz needs to get more comfortable with throwing his offspeed pitches more frequently in games.
\r\n
\r\n\"A couple of weeks ago he changed from a curveball to a slider,\" Viola said. \"With his arm slide, he's much better-suited to throw a late-breaking-with-depth slider than he does with a slow curveball, so we've been working on that. It's getting better. We had a side [the other day] and he threw the ball outstanding, so now we just need to carry it into the game.\"
\r\n
\r\nViola added that he is impressed with the development of Matz's fastball, which he believes will be very effective for him in the future.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's got a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball and they both go between 92-96 mph. He's just got a live arm. The ball comes out of his hand real well when he gets on top of it,\" Viola said.
\r\n
\r\nWith 18 strikeouts in 14 innings of work, Matz certainly hasn't put any sort of burden on his defense in his early starts this season. Matz said that he's focusing on keeping his pitches low in the zone to force more groundballs, and added that the strikeouts tend to come naturally when he locates his pitches well.
\r\n
\r\n\"Coming out of high school I just wanted to strike everybody out, but I've realized that that's not going to happen in professional baseball, so groundballs are huge,\" Matz said.
\r\n
\r\n\"You want to keep balls on the ground because you can't really get hurt too bad, and then the strikeouts just kind of come when you're trying to get ground balls. Your pitches start to get more effective. You're down in the zone and that's probably why the strikeouts have been coming.\"
\r\n
\r\nViola agreed that Matz shouldn't be too concerned with striking batters out, and said that he just wants him to focus on working efficiently.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm old school. I like to see the least amount of pitches possible to get the outs, but he's capable of striking guys out if need be, and that's a nice gift to have in your back pocket,\" Viola said.
\r\n
\r\nRecovering from Tommy John surgery is difficult for any pitcher, let alone on one straight out of high school, but it certainly appears that Matz has worked hard on a speedy recovery, and that he is prepared to tackle his first full season on the mound in Savannah.
\r\n
\r\nAlthough Matz faced major setbacks in the earliest stages of his professional career, he has overcome them to once again be known as one of the most exciting prospects in the Mets organization.
\r\n
\r\nThere is still a long road ahead for Matz, but he has already taken great leaps to bounce back into a promising career. The general feeling in the Sand Gnats clubhouse is that Matz is prepared to thrive and move up the ladder in the Mets organization.
\r\n
\r\n\"The big thing for Steven (Matz) is that every time he goes out it's a learning experience because he's still playing catch-up with these other guys that have started 20 to 25 games a year,\" Viola said.
\r\n
\r\n\"But I'll tell you what,\" Viola added, \"he's a very smart, intelligent kid with a great gift, and even after overcoming Tommy John he's throwing better than ever.\"
\r\n
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