Top Mets Draft Pick Battles Back From Adversity
Three weeks ago things were tenuous for Mets left-handed pitching prospect Steven Matz. The Mets top draft pick (second round, 72nd overall) in the 2009 Amateur Draft, injured his elbow before pitching in any professional games, and underwent Tommy John Surgery on May 18th, 2010. He was expected back by the middle of last season, but that never materialized as a series of minor setbacks forced the Mets to shut him down for 2011.
I spoke to Steve this past winter and he was very optimistic heading into 2012. He was looking forward to getting to Spring Training around the first of March, and working his arm back into game shape. When he did arrive at the start of ST, he started out with a normal workout regimen and when it was time to start to pitch real live innings he was working hard, and throwing hard too. His velocity was back to the low-to-mid-90′s but something wasn’t right with the elbow.
I talked to Steve at the beginning of May, and he had hit a roadblock in his recovery. The Mets had shut him down and sent him to Alabama to see Dr. James Andrews again. Dr. Andrews was concerned, but said that it was very hard to read an MRI of an area that had surgery performed there. The examination was inconclusive, but it was decided that Matz would try to pitch “one more time.”
I was keeping my fingers crossed these last few weeks but had not contacted Steve to see if he was pitching again. And then last night I was conducting a phone interview with Mets 2011 Sixth-round draft choice, outfielder Joe Tuschak, who is at extended spring training and when I asked him which pitcher looked outstanding so far this camp he replied immediately: “Steve Matz.” I almost fell out of my desk chair.
Here’s what Tuschak had to say about Matz:
Steve Matz. He’s coming off that surgery and he’s been pitching great. Throwing the ball hard, locating everything. Just been looking very good. He said his arm had been hurting him at the beginning, and then he just said it kinda went away. He’s been pitching very well.
When I got off the phone with Tuschak, I wrote to Matz immediately:
Hi Steve! I just got off the phone with Joe Tuschak. We did an interview, and during it I asked him what pitcher was the biggest surprise in camp, who was throwing the seams off the ball? And you know what he said? Steve Matz. I nearly fell off my chair, because the last time we spoke you were not doing so well. I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear you merely hit a speed bump a month ago, and you’ re right where you ought to be now.
About an hour later, I heard back from Steve:
Hey Pete, yeah things just took a turn for the best all of the sudden, it was amazing. I dont know what happened but God willing it can stay this way.
Amen to that my brother. It looks like after two years of toiling and waiting, and wondering, one of the Mets prodigal sons has returned home. In another three weeks or so God willing, Steve Matz will throw his first professional pitch in a regular season game against a member of the opposition. And I don’t know about you folks, but as far as Steve and myself are concerned, we can’t wait! Let’s Go Mets!!
About the Author: Peter Shapiro
The first time I went to Shea was not for a Mets game, it was for the Beatles concert there in August of '66. My first Met game was '67, a guy named Salty Parker was the interim-manager then. My first pennant race was 1969. As a 12 year-old that summer and fall, I managed to get to the park for 3 games. The first was the beginning of the Miracle which actually started on Tuesday July 8, 1969 with a day game against the Cubs. I was there a lot in '73. I saw games 3 & 5 of the 1973 NL Playoffs against the "Big Red Machine", from the upper deck behind home plate. It was from there that I witnessed the fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose, and the mayhem that ensued. And that sweet victory in game 5! I saw a couple of WS games at Shea that year against that legendary Oakland A's club. I was there in 1985 for every single game Dr. K pitched including his two 16 strikeout performances, and the day he one-hit the Cubs on an infield single and the Mets won 1-0. I loved being a Met fan in those days. Hopefully we are once again preparing to emerge from the darkness.
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