The Phillies talked to Tom Filer, who has had Mathieson in two different seasons, and Filer reported that the 22 year old was ready for a shot. Reading manager P.J. Forbes agreed with the assessment and the Phillies made the decision. "He has made all of us look good with the way he has pitched," Forbes said. "I had him two years ago in (Class A) Lakewood and have seen how far he has come."
Forbes said that Mathieson wears his emotions on his sleeve on the mound and "always has his foot on the gas pedal." It was that Type A persona that gave Mathieson problems when learning how to gear back for his off-speed pitches, and it was the kind of personality that had the organization convinced that the 17th-round pick in the 2002 draft would be better suited for back-of-the-bullpen work.
Mathieson has altered that stance.
"He was a guy who one out of every five sliders or changeups, you'd say, 'Now that's it,'" Forbes said. "Now he's to the point where three out of five (off-speed pitches) are nice pitches."
Mathieson began to turn the corner during the Arizona Fall League last year, then had a chance to show his wares on an international stage while pitching for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning in his team's stunning upset of the United States, as he got Chase Utley to fly out to the center field wall for the last out of the inning.
"I think that helped him," said Rheal Cormier, Mathieson's Canadian teammate. "When he pitched against the U.S., he was fired up going against some great hitters. I think a lot of guys come here with the adrenalin going, but (the WBC) was an All-Star atmosphere, so he experienced it."
The big question is how long Mathieson will stay with the Phillies. Jon Lieber isn't likely to return to the rotation until the end of the month at the earliest and Randy Wolf, who is on a rehab assignment, won't be ready until closer to the All-Star Break. With off days on Thursday and next Monday, the Phillies could return to a four-man rotation and send Mathieson back to Reading (or possibly to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre) after his start on Saturday. To hear Charlie Manuel talk about the situation though, Mathieson could get a second start if all goes well on Saturday. "We'll give him a chance. We'll see exactly where he's at," Manuel told the Philadelphia Daily News.
Wolf knuckles up
As for Randy Wolf, his next scheduled rehab start will be pushed back a couple days because of swollen knuckles on his pitching hand. Wolf took a line drive off his knuckles in his last start and left the game as a precaution to get the hand examined. X-Rays showed no breaks, but some swelling did develop. Instead of starting Sunday for Clearwater, Wolf will start Tuesday.
When the Phillies activate Scott Mathieson on Saturday, they'll have to send somebody out to make room on the roster. Odds are that it will be outfielder Chris Roberson. The Phillies may also make a change in their backup catchers, sending Chris Coste back to Scranton and bringing back Carlos Ruiz. Coste is a great story, but he's 0-for-12. On the upside, he's at least making contact, having struck out only once, and he has gunned down two runners attempting to steal. Wednesday night, he threw out Jose Reyes, without ever coming out of his crouch, firing a bullet to second and falling to his knees.
Pat Gillick hinted that there could be some major changes coming if the team doesn't respond. Saying that nobody is untouchable, Gillick didn't back off much when asked if that meant Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. His clarification only allowed that the Phillies would have to be blown away with an offer to deal either of those young players. The same would hold true for Cole Hamels.