Mathis waiting for shoulder to heal

ROUND ROCK, TX - Doug Mathis' 2008 season has contained both positives and negatives. Although the hurler spent over a month in the Major Leagues this year, he has also missed a large chunk of the season with a fairly minor shoulder injury. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the pitcher for a Q&A session.

Because starting pitcher Doug Mathis pitched so well with Double-A Frisco in 2007, it is easy to forget that he actually began that season with Triple-A Oklahoma.

Mathis' stint with the RedHawks was forgettable, as he coughed up 15 earned runs in just 12.2 innings.

But the right-hander was much more prepared for the challenge in 2008, when he broke spring training with the Triple-A club for the second consecutive year.

In seven early-season starts with Oklahoma, Mathis posted a 3.55 ERA to go along with a perfect 5-0 record. The performance was good enough to warrant a big league call-up in early May.

Mathis notched 22.1 innings with the Rangers while bouncing between the bullpen and starting rotation in May and June. The 25-year-old surrendered 17 earned runs [6.85 ERA] while putting up a 2-1 record in the Majors.

After pitching two scoreless innings against the Mets on June 15, Mathis was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Although the injury is not structural and is not considered to be serious, it has lingered for much of the season.

The Missouri product finally returned to action with Triple-A Oklahoma on August 10, as he pitched three hitless innings against the Albuquerque Isotopes. He didn't appear in another game until August 26 in Round Rock, when he yielded six runs [all unearned] on three home runs in just two innings.

Lone Star Dugout sat down with Mathis for a Q&A session during Oklahoma's recent series in Round Rock.

Jason Cole: You made just seven starts with Oklahoma this season before being called up by the Rangers. What was it like pitching in the Majors despite having very little experience above the Double-A level?

Doug Mathis: It went fast. It was definitely different from being here, only having a month here. It makes you kind of learn stuff a lot quicker than you're ready for. But I liked it, I enjoyed it, and I want to get back there.

Cole: How did you feel about the way you played and how did you enjoy the overall atmosphere there with the Rangers?

Mathis: I love it. That's why you play the game. That's why you're playing what's over here – you're trying to get to the big leagues. I thought I did okay. I had a couple of bad outings, but I showed that I could pitch up there and get guys out. But I need to get more opportunities to get up there. I'm not doing any good by being hurt and being down here.

Cole: From your time with the Rangers this year, how did you feel you improved as a pitcher?

Mathis: I definitely think I improved on the mental side of what goes on, how to prepare yourself, and how you go about your business on a day-to-day basis. Being a starter, it always leads up to that one day you go out there – every five days. Then even being a reliever – I was up there in the bullpen.

Just the mental side of everything. I've learned a lot like the way you take care of your body and the way you should do things. That will definitely be stuff I'll probably take into play more next year. This year, it is kind of late in the year. But next year I'm going to be changing things a little bit.

Cole: What exactly is the injury that's had you down here?

Mathis: I strained my shoulder about two months ago and it has just been slow recovery for whatever reason. It's the kind of injury where you need to rest it and I kind of want to play the rest of the year. In order to do that I would have to miss the season – miss the rest of the season – and I don't want to do that. I'm the kind of guy that wants to play it out and see how it goes. I think it is finally starting to come around, but I'm not back to where I should be. It's a slow process.

Cole: Was that something that just came up in one of your outings with the Rangers or was it more of a gradual thing?

Mathis: It kind of started when I was up in Texas. My shoulder started getting tight because I was on a weird throwing schedule. But then I just started throwing after a game one day and I kind of just felt it. I felt a little pop in there, felt something move around. It got real sore, got real tight, and I had a rough time throwing. The last month and a half, it has been real tight and I haven't been able to get loose that well.

Cole: You came back with Oklahoma on August 10, but didn't pitch again until August 26. Why did you take so much time off? Did it flare up again?

Mathis: When I was pitching a couple of weeks ago in Albuquerque, it was bothering me a little bit. It was sore. But this type of injury is just something I'm going to have to pitch through. Nothing is wrong structurally, so I just need to bare the discomfort and bare the pain for a little bit. But I threw the ball well, I felt okay. Obviously I wasn't throwing the ball as hard as I normally do.

I felt good afterwards, but then the next day I came back in and I was real sore, real tight. I could barely throw. Then the next three days after that, I tried to throw and couldn't even really throw that well. We decided to shut it down for about four or five days and I had a little setback there. That's why I hadn't pitched in 16 days between my starts. I missed my start in Nashville and then I pretty much missed the last homestand. That was real tight and real sore. I could barely throw. That's why I took so much time off there.

Cole: Did they have you on a pretty strict pitch count the other night [August 26]?

Mathis: Yeah, I was only supposed to throw like 45 pitches. I didn't really feel too comfortable out there. I'm still kind of feeling for it. But this time of year, it's either go out there and play or shut it down completely and I don't want to shut it down.

Cole: Are you expecting to make your next start?

Mathis: Yeah. I'll pitch on Sunday in Memphis. I'll pitch there and then I'll pitch probably the third or fourth game of the playoffs. I plan on making at least two more starts and see where it goes from there. Who knows.

Cole: Even though you weren't necessarily ever sent down from the Majors before you got hurt, have the Rangers given you anything to work on before you do get back up there?

Mathis: They just want me to get healthy. That's the biggest thing – they want me to get healthy and be confident right now. Being injured and having to deal with that, my confidence is a little down. They just want me to get my confidence back and make sure I'm healthy before I start working on anything. It wouldn't really make any sense to have me working on stuff when I can't really do that yet.

The big thing is to go out in my next two starts and just pitch as normal as possible and be aggressive like I normally am. The last time I went out there, I was kind of tentative and kind of feeling for too much stuff. You can kind of see that my confidence is a little down. That's just kind of not trusting that my arm is feeling good. They just want me to get healthy and get my confidence back before they do anything.

Cole: You mentioned coming out of the bullpen a bit with the Rangers. You're a four-pitch guy, so how do you decide which pitches you will or won't use in a particular outing? Or do you like to use all four out of the bullpen?

Mathis: It just depends. It doesn't really matter for me, coming out of the bullpen. You just pitch to the situation. You don't really want to change the way you pitch just because you're starting or relieving. But being a reliever, sometimes you don't have to use that many pitches. But I think it is kind of good if you have more options because hitters aren't going to see it as much. For me, it kind of plays as an advantage.

Cole: When I talked to you in spring training, you said you were toying with a cutter. Do you have an update on that?

Mathis: Yeah, I kind of stopped working on that because my slider is real close to a cutter anyways. That will be something I work on in the offseason and kind of in spring training next year. I'll develop that a little more. That's something I just want to wait and see where it goes with that.

Cole: Will you be pitching anywhere in the offseason or are you going to get a full offseason off?

Mathis: I'm probably going to get a full offseason off. It all depends on how my arm feels at the end of the year, too. At the end of the year – whether I'm done here after the playoffs or I go up in September – I'm going to go in and see where my arm is at, talk to everybody, and see what's the best route to go. I'm going to fall short of the innings that I've been usually getting, but the biggest thing is to get healthy. That's the number one thing.

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