"It's been kind of a wild year, but these are all great honors," the right starter said after a side session with Angel, and Surprise Scorpion, pitching coach Kernan Ronan.
That's right, honors. Plural. Scott Mathieson, who has never pitched above Hi-A, went to the Futures Game, the Arizona Fall League, and will be pitching for Team Canada in Olympic Qualifying. That's the highest Minor League All-Star Game, the highest developmental league in the minors and the Olympics. Not bad for a kid still trying to stay on top of his slider.
"It was just a great year, I get to play for my country, represent my team, and get better."
Not that there weren't disappointments.
"I never did get to talk to any of the big leaguers," Mathieson says of his time at the Futures Game, which was held in Detroit the same weekend as the Major League All-Star Game. "Those guys have so many responsibilities that weekend that you just have to leave them alone."
As far as the Olympics are concerned, Mathieson is proud to play for his home country, and proud of his country in general.
"I think what happened up there is that there were a couple guys who came to the bigs, guys like Larry Walker, and had a lot of success, and the scouts just realized there was talent up there. I think there are a lot of great players, and the more attention we get the better the coaches get too. I played in the British Columbia Premier League, which is essentially a high school league, and we come down and play against the best teams down here in the States and have success. We came down my last year there and played against some of the best Junior College teams, with a squad full of high school players, and we won. There's talent up there."
As far as the competition level, Mathieson makes no bones about where he's seen the best talent overall.
"Oh, the Olympic teams are good, and the Futures Game was amazing, but this, the AFL, is by far the best overall talent I've ever played against. You're seeing number nine hitters who hit 20 home runs at Double-A during the regular season, guys who hit .350. It's amazing the talent you see here."
And despite his struggles, Mathieson knows this league is going to make him a better player.
"I've always believed that hitters will show pitchers how good they are. It doesn't matter what the organization, or magazines or websites say, if you get guys out, then you're ready to play at that level, and if you don't get guys out, you're not ready."
So there's no truth that the AFL is unfair to pitchers, who are carrying tired arms and trying to make adjustments?
"You know, I haven't really had a break in forever, but I really feel strong, and I know that I'm actually throwing harder down here than I was in the regular season, so I don't think it's unfair. I mean, these lineups are stacked, but Major League lineups are stacked too. If you want to compete at the highest level than you're going to have to be able to compete at this level. It's that simple."
As far as what he's working on, for Mathieson it's all about a repeatable delivery. Throughout his 30 minute side session with Ronan the Angels coach is heard offering criticism for Mathieson dropping his arm, and praise when he doesn't.
"See!" Ronan says, throwing his arms up at one point, "when you stay on top, that's a strikeout."
The slider is important for Mathieson, and he knows it.
"Honestly, I was throwing kind of a curve ball/slider/slurve before, but I'm concentrating on the slider now. You can always go back and add a pitch later, but I think it's better for me to throw three pitches really well than throw four pitches where none of them are that good."
From the AFL Mathieson will immediately move over to Team Canada, so there really won't be much of an offseason for him. Just resting right?
Not a chance.
"Oh, no way. I'll definitely be hitting the weights, probably the week before Christmas I'll start. I'm expecting to get invited to Spring Training, and I want to be ready for it. As far as where I go out of Spring, I don't know, but I'm going to be ready to compete."
He's been on such a wild ride so far, is it even possible that he might make the jump all the way from Hi-A to the bigs next season? Shouldn't such a top prospect be moving through the system faster?
"Of course I want to be in the big leagues, that's what everybody who's ever played baseball wants, but I know I'm not ready for that. Should I be higher in the system? That's up to the brass in the Phillies organization. I've had a great time this season, and down here they've treated me really well, but I've had a couple of really rough outings, and like I said, the hitters will tell you what level you're supposed to be at."
Mathieson's an intriguing prospect, one who's got the stuff, and the intelligence, to become a true big league ace, and the Phillies know it. There are no plans to rush Mathieson, who won't turn 22 until the middle of Spring Training next year. Since he knows that, the question of what a good 2006 would be becomes an easy one to answer.
"I'd like to start in Double-A, and I'd like to have success there. I'd like to take all these experiences, all these things that I have learned this season, and really put them to use. If I do that, I'll move, because I'll get guys out."
Sounds repetitive, but then again, that's what Mathieson is working on in the AFL. Stay on top of the pitch/situation, follow through, and make sure things are breaking the way he wants them too, every time.