If nothing else, the 2007 season has been eventful for 24-year-old pitcher Doug Mathis.
Despite having logged just 10 innings above the High-A level, the Rangers assigned Mathis to Triple-A Oklahoma out of spring training. He made three appearances with the RedHawks and gave up 15 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings.
Mathis was then sent back to Double-A Frisco, where he immediately began to dominate. The former Missouri Tiger posted a 2.52 ERA in his first two months with the RoughRiders, but a nagging back injury led to poor results in June and July. In those two months, the right-hander had a 6.59 ERA over eight starts. He also surrendered six of his seven home runs allowed during that time.
A healthy Mathis was able to turn it around in August, however, as he went 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA in the month. In a recent start against the Midland RockHounds, Mathis tossed a complete game four-hit shutout, recording 10 strikeouts.
Lone Star Dugout was able to catch up with Mathis on Tuesday afternoon, one day before he took the mound in a playoff battle against the San Antonio Missions.
Jason Cole: Now that your regular season is over, how did you feel about it?
Doug Mathis: I felt like I ended it pretty good. I'm happy with how my last month went, especially after struggling there for a little bit through June and July. Everything has been kind of falling into place. I'm happy with how I ended up and I put together a pretty solid year even though it was kind of up and down there for awhile. But I'm pretty happy with what I've been able to do.
Cole: You mentioned your mid-season struggles. Do you feel that was mostly because of your back injury?
Mathis: I think so. I think that had a lot to do with it. With my back being hurt, I wasn't really able to finish a lot of my pitches. That caused me to start pulling off a lot of things. It wasn't really that big of a change, but when you have a little thing like that going on, you change one little thing and it kind of messes you up. I got through that and got that taken care of a little bit. My back is feeling better, so I've been able to finish things better and do what I want to do out there.
Cole: How did you feel physically in August specifically?
Mathis: I probably felt the best I have all year. My back has kind of been bothering me all year, but in August I've just been taking it easy between starts. I've been making sure I'm ready to go when I get out there for game day. I felt good pretty much every time I've gone out there this whole month. That hadn't been the case in the past.
Cole: You mentioned taking it easy between starts. What did you do differently?
Mathis: Normally I throw two sides between each start. This time of year, a lot of guys just go down to one. I usually throw long bullpens, like a lot of pitches. Our pitching coach, Terry Clark, and Rick Adair, our pitching coordinator, thought it would be a good idea for me to throw one side per week. It would be a real short one. I would go about five minutes and they would time it. When my five minutes were up, I was done no matter how I was throwing. I would just get on the mound, get a feel, and get off the mound. That way I wasn't thinking about a lot of stuff. When I was struggling, I would be throwing a lot, pressing too much, and putting too much worry on something that wasn't there. I think this last month has helped me out a lot because I have just been able to clear my mind and not really worry about my side work so much. I'm just going out there and concentrating on the game.
|Mathis in a rehab start with the AZL Rangers. b>|
Mathis: The biggest thing for me, whenever I run into problems from a mechanics standpoint, is that I don't really finish my pitches all the time. This month I have really made an emphasis of every time I throw a pitch to finish and get through everything. A lot of times I would be throwing and I would be standing straight up. I would be finishing with my arm instead of my body. Now I'm just making myself finish. It has been getting good results, so I'm feeling good. The best thing is, even if the results aren't there, I still feel good about the way I'm throwing the ball. The ball is going where I want to and I'm getting a lot better action on my pitches.
Cole: Being a sinkerball guy, if you don't finish your pitches, does that mean the sinker kind of levels off? What exactly happens if you don't finish your pitch?
Mathis: For any pitch that you throw, if you don't finish it, you're not going to have the best action. It might still be the same velocity, but it's not going to be down in the zone and you won't be getting the action on all your pitches, whether it's a sinker, a slider, or even a changeup. Obviously if you don't finish that, it's going to come into play there.
Cole: What does it mean to you to be named the starter for the opening game of the playoffs for you guys?
Mathis: I think it's cool. It is definitely somewhat of an honor. You play all season and you have the most important game, which is pretty much the first game of this series. I'm kind of honored that I'm pitching that game. It is a good opportunity to kind of set a tone in that series. It's not really a short series – it is best out of five – but it's always good to get that first one no matter what type of series it is. I'm going to do my best to go out there and try to get it going for our team.
Cole: How have you pitched against San Antonio this year?
Mathis: I've pitched pretty well against them. When I first got here, I threw the ball well against them. We didn't have much trouble with them. I think I've faced them only two times in the last couple of months. I always seem to give up a few runs against them, but I always threw the ball well. It's like they just get me for a couple of runs. They really haven't hit me that hard all year. They are the type of lineup that scores in bunches when they get hot. They'll put up five, six, or seven runs in an inning without a problem. I've done alright against them, but I've just got to make sure I don't let that big inning happen.
Cole: Are you going to be pitching anywhere over the offseason?
Mathis: Probably not. I'm probably going to take this offseason to rest and get my back healthy. I want to get better at what I do and get in shape. I don't think I'm going to be playing. I think I've thrown 140 something innings. The playoffs will put me right at 150, depending on how far we go. That's plenty of innings for the year.
Cole: You live fairly close to Surprise. Do you plan on going out there and working with some of the coaches?
Mathis: Starting in January, we're allowed to go out there and workout every day. But I live there, so if any of the coaches are around, I can go out there and work on some stuff if needed. Once January rolls around, I'm pretty much out there every day.
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