Matz Completed Major Stepping Stone

SAVANNAH, GA - Steven Matz woke up on Saturday August 24 with his primary 2013 pitching goal only five innings of work away. By the end of that day he had bridged the gap and eclipsed 100 innings pitched on the season, a major milestone in the left-hander's young but tumultuous career.

Matz's primary concern all season long has been staying on the field and in competitive shape. Just staying healthy from April to September would have made the campaign a positive one regardless of statistics or success on the field.

The 100 innings pitched [and his reason for setting that bar] symbolizes a physically fit and unimpaired season. But Matz did more than just stay on the mound all year, at times he dominated it.

In 21 starts and 106.1 innings pitched the 2009 second round pick struck out 121 hitters to go with a 2.62 ERA. Opponents hit only .225 off him. All are better indicators of his performance than the 5-6 win-loss record.

In games this year Gnats' coaches and Matz have zeroed in on two primary areas of concern. The first was the development of Matz's breaking pitch and whether it would emerge as a curve or slider. The second was maintaining focus and the elimination of the bad inning.

The breaking ball issue appears to have been resolved of late.

This season has been an odyssey of sorts for that offering. It fluctuated between slider and curve as Matz drifted between different arm angles, speeds, and release points. At times this season Matz has had to search in games for a feel on that pitch with mixed results.

"Sometimes in an attempt to get more rotation I drop my arm down unintentionally and come around the ball," Matz said. "When I do that it's more of a horizontal break than the vertical break I'm wanting."

Sand Gnats pitching coach Frank Viola says that recently the pitch has evolved into a sharp breaking strikeout curve, a viable offering that has elevated itself above a mere show-me status to keep hitters from keying in on Matz's changeup and heater.

"The last few times out have been the first times I've seen him repeat his arm slot with that pitch," Viola said. "It's the curveball we want, late breaking with some tilt on it. Right now it's a 10-4 and we'd like to see it at 11-5."

Viola said the pitch will also benefit from continued subtraction in velocity. For it to be a true curveball it would need to be between 15 to 20 mph slower than his fastball. It would also give Matz three legitimate out-pitches in three different speed brackets.

"The 10-12 mph area off his fastball is already occupied by his change so if you stagger those speeds it becomes very tough for hitters to make adjustments," Viola added. "But at the moment he has the feel for the breaking pitch he's been looking for all year and hopefully now he has found it for good and the next step is to let it mature."

Matz and his coaches feel his focus has had moments of lapse in 2013 [as with nearly all players in A-ball].

"We want consistency in his fastball command. He has an inning where he loses command and focus but he has the stuff to get him out of it," Savannah manager Luis Rojas said. "His fastball is heavy and gets him out of trouble. He just has that one inning where he loses his focus and touch."

Matz feels that controlling all three pitches over the entire game is tied to his ability to maintain focus.

"Last outing that's what was so frustrating. My curveball was on and the change was working. The one thing that left me in one bad inning was what has been working best for me all season, my fastball," Matz said.

Viola agreed with Matz that the biggest objective overall for Matz in 2013 was to stay healthy and conditioned the entire season. Matz has done so.

"The other night he was an effortless 95 to 97 deep into the game and that tells me that past the 100 inning mark he still has a lot of strength in that arm," Viola cited.

On a ten scale Matz gives his season a seven and cites health as a large factor in that rating. But Matz thinks he is capable of better performances.

"I would give my year a seven. Health is a big part of that. I've made improvements this year but looking back I think I could have done better especially when I consider specific games," Matz admitted.

Matz was elated to find out that the Mets would be tapering back his pitch counts. It meant that he would be eligible to pitch in the postseason and try to help the Gnats win the South Atlantic League title.

2013 still brought Matz unexpected obstacles. In late May he developed a blister on his middle pitching finger and missed ten days. The blister did come back once after that but Mother Nature may have stepped in to save the day for the young left-hander.

"It came back a little bit one game and then the rain started. We came back out to play again but the rain returned so I didn't pitch any more. It went back down and hasn't come back since," Matz said.

One aspect of his game that Matz remains dissatisfied is pitching with runners on. Matz feels capable of holding runners effectively but wants to improve his confidence pitching out the stretch.

"I start thinking and trying to be too quick to plate so my body rushes and my arm drags and I miss my location," Matz noted.

Matz has yet to hear from the Mets about any fall assignments. At this point he is considering working out with fellow Mets players Charles Thurber and Blake Forsythe at the University of Tennessee facilities where Matz feels he can get a better workout in more space than his usual place in New York [where it is often too cold to throw outdoors].

Four years after being picked in the 2nd round Steven Matz has finally had a chance to give the Mets a taste of the potential he and scouts thought he had. And he has done it in one of the more physically demanding locations in professional baseball, playing under the hot humid sun in Savannah, Georgia.

"A season in Low-A ball is about trying to get you through 140 games for the first time in your career. This is a stepping stone. If you are able to get through here it will get easier because you have done it already," Viola concluded.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nMatz's primary concern all season long has been staying on the field and in competitive shape. Just staying healthy from April to September would have made the campaign a positive one regardless of statistics or success on the field.
\r\n
\r\nThe 100 innings pitched [and his reason for setting that bar] symbolizes a physically fit and unimpaired season. But Matz did more than just stay on the mound all year, at times he dominated it.
\r\n
\r\nIn 21 starts and 106.1 innings pitched the 2009 second round pick struck out 121 hitters to go with a 2.62 ERA. Opponents hit only .225 off him. All are better indicators of his performance than the 5-6 win-loss record.
\r\n
\r\nIn games this year Gnats' coaches and Matz have zeroed in on two primary areas of concern. The first was the development of Matz's breaking pitch and whether it would emerge as a curve or slider. The second was maintaining focus and the elimination of the bad inning.
\r\n
\r\nThe breaking ball issue appears to have been resolved of late.
\r\n
\r\nThis season has been an odyssey of sorts for that offering. It fluctuated between slider and curve as Matz drifted between different arm angles, speeds, and release points. At times this season Matz has had to search in games for a feel on that pitch with mixed results.
\r\n
\r\n\"Sometimes in an attempt to get more rotation I drop my arm down unintentionally and come around the ball,\" Matz said. \"When I do that it's more of a horizontal break than the vertical break I'm wanting.\"
\r\n
\r\nSand Gnats pitching coach Frank Viola says that recently the pitch has evolved into a sharp breaking strikeout curve, a viable offering that has elevated itself above a mere show-me status to keep hitters from keying in on Matz's changeup and heater.
\r\n
\r\n\"The last few times out have been the first times I've seen him repeat his arm slot with that pitch,\" Viola said. \"It's the curveball we want, late breaking with some tilt on it. Right now it's a 10-4 and we'd like to see it at 11-5.\"
\r\n
\r\nViola said the pitch will also benefit from continued subtraction in velocity. For it to be a true curveball it would need to be between 15 to 20 mph slower than his fastball. It would also give Matz three legitimate out-pitches in three different speed brackets.
\r\n
\r\n\"The 10-12 mph area off his fastball is already occupied by his change so if you stagger those speeds it becomes very tough for hitters to make adjustments,\" Viola added. \"But at the moment he has the feel for the breaking pitch he's been looking for all year and hopefully now he has found it for good and the next step is to let it mature.\"
\r\n
\r\nMatz and his coaches feel his focus has had moments of lapse in 2013 [as with nearly all players in A-ball].
\r\n
\r\n\"We want consistency in his fastball command. He has an inning where he loses command and focus but he has the stuff to get him out of it,\" Savannah manager Luis Rojas said. \"His fastball is heavy and gets him out of trouble. He just has that one inning where he loses his focus and touch.\"
\r\n
\r\nMatz feels that controlling all three pitches over the entire game is tied to his ability to maintain focus.
\r\n
\r\n\"Last outing that's what was so frustrating. My curveball was on and the change was working. The one thing that left me in one bad inning was what has been working best for me all season, my fastball,\" Matz said.
\r\n
\r\nViola agreed with Matz that the biggest objective overall for Matz in 2013 was to stay healthy and conditioned the entire season. Matz has done so.
\r\n
\r\n\"The other night he was an effortless 95 to 97 deep into the game and that tells me that past the 100 inning mark he still has a lot of strength in that arm,\" Viola cited.
\r\n
\r\nOn a ten scale Matz gives his season a seven and cites health as a large factor in that rating. But Matz thinks he is capable of better performances.
\r\n
\r\n\"I would give my year a seven. Health is a big part of that. I've made improvements this year but looking back I think I could have done better especially when I consider specific games,\" Matz admitted.
\r\n
\r\nMatz was elated to find out that the Mets would be tapering back his pitch counts. It meant that he would be eligible to pitch in the postseason and try to help the Gnats win the South Atlantic League title.
\r\n
\r\n2013 still brought Matz unexpected obstacles. In late May he developed a blister on his middle pitching finger and missed ten days. The blister did come back once after that but Mother Nature may have stepped in to save the day for the young left-hander.
\r\n
\r\n\"It came back a little bit one game and then the rain started. We came back out to play again but the rain returned so I didn't pitch any more. It went back down and hasn't come back since,\" Matz said.
\r\n
\r\nOne aspect of his game that Matz remains dissatisfied is pitching with runners on. Matz feels capable of holding runners effectively but wants to improve his confidence pitching out the stretch.
\r\n
\r\n\"I start thinking and trying to be too quick to plate so my body rushes and my arm drags and I miss my location,\" Matz noted.
\r\n
\r\nMatz has yet to hear from the Mets about any fall assignments. At this point he is considering working out with fellow Mets players Charles Thurber and Blake Forsythe at the University of Tennessee facilities where Matz feels he can get a better workout in more space than his usual place in New York [where it is often too cold to throw outdoors].
\r\n
\r\nFour years after being picked in the 2nd round Steven Matz has finally had a chance to give the Mets a taste of the potential he and scouts thought he had. And he has done it in one of the more physically demanding locations in professional baseball, playing under the hot humid sun in Savannah, Georgia.
\r\n
\r\n\"A season in Low-A ball is about trying to get you through 140 games for the first time in your career. This is a stepping stone. If you are able to get through here it will get easier because you have done it already,\" Viola concluded.
\r\n
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