Entering the 2007 campaign, many Rangers fans had never heard of Doug Mathis. The club's 13th round pick in the 2005 draft, Mathis is used to being overshadowed. When he played at the University of Missouri, Mathis was overshadowed by Max Scherzer and Nathan Culp, two pitchers who were – at the time – considered to be better pro prospects.
"It was good following those guys," Mathis said. "I was our Sunday guy when I was there. Max was obviously the Friday night guy and Nathan was our Saturday guy. Having those two in our rotation was good and it was fun to have that to build off every time I went out there."
After signing with the Rangers in 2005, Mathis reported to the Short-Season Spokane Indians. The Arizona native posted an impressive 2.68 ERA in 84 innings. Despite the success, many did not believe Mathis had the stuff to become a legitimate pitching prospect.
The right-hander began to turn heads with an outstanding second half with High-A Bakersfield last season. Mathis attributes his late-2006 success to sticking with the program the Rangers outlined for him.
"I was trying to just stick with the program," Mathis said of last season. "Early in spring training, we changed a lot of stuff. I was just working on mechanical stuff. It took me awhile to get used to it, but I never really changed anything. I just kept doing it and finally it clicked.".
Mathis currently features a two-seam sinking fastball, a four-seam fastball, a changeup, a curveball, and a slider. Much of the righty's recent success can be attributed to the improvement of his stuff across the board, but especially the increased velocity on his low-90's sinker and the re-addition of a curveball.
"I threw my curveball in high school, but I stopped once I went to college," he said. "Last year, I was talking to Dave Chavarria, our pitching coach in Bakersfield, and I felt like I needed something else to show the hitters. We started playing around with that in bullpen sessions and I started throwing it in games. It has come along and it's starting to get better and better the more I throw it."
Mathis believes his sinker is his best pitch, but the 23-year-old realizes there is always room for improvement.
"When I'm locating it and sinking it, my fastball [is my best pitch], but I have to throw it for strikes consistently," Mathis said. "It needs the most work because I always need that and I can always get better at it."
After an outstanding performance in spring training, the Rangers elected to send Mathis to Triple-A Oklahoma, where he struggled, giving up 16 runs in 12.2 innings. Despite the rough start, Mathis took it as a learning experience and believes the stint helped his development as a pitcher.
"I think it helped me," said Mathis. "Even though I struggled a little bit, it helped me out a lot. I know what to expect now down the road and in the future. I think it helped me deal with failure. I know that if I happen to do poorly, I can rebound from it.
"I learned a lot about how to pitch. The main thing for me is I learned that if you get in trouble, you can't overthrow. That's what I was doing up there. I was just overthrowing and trying to do too much."
Since moving back to Double-A Frisco, Mathis has quickly become one of the most dominant pitchers in the Texas League. In six starts with the RoughRiders this season, the Missouri product has a 1.91 ERA. His sinker has also been effective. Mathis is getting nearly two groundouts per fly out and has yet to allow a home run in 37.2 innings.
"I've been real happy with the way I'm throwing down here and it's been going well," said Mathis.
Pleased with his success this season, Mathis is trying not to look too far ahead.
"For the rest of the season I'm just going to try to stay consistent and keep doing what I'm doing. I want to try to get better with all my stuff. I'm not really going to worry about moving anywhere or getting to Triple-A because that'll take care of itself. My goal is to just be consistent and get better every time I go out there."
If Mathis keeps "doing what he's doing", it's safe to bet that he will become a household name among Rangers fans in the near future.
Mathis emerging as top prospect
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