MMO Interviews Mets Lefty Fire-Baller Steve Matz
Petey: Hey Steve?
Petey: How you doin? It’s Pete Shapiro from MetsMerizedOnline.com.
Steve: Hey how’s it going?
Petey: Great how you doin today?
Steve: Not too bad.
Petey: Last time I talked to you was the end of April I guess, something like that, and you had undergone a setback in spring training where you had to shut it down and go back to Alabama to see Dr. James Andrews again. And you told me at the time that you were going to be giving it “one more try.” And then a few weeks later I was talking to one of your teammates, it was Joe Tuschak I think, and when I asked him which pitcher in camp was really opening eyes, he said immediately, “Steve Matz.” Since that last time I had talked to you when everything was very uncertain, I was wondering what happened?
Steve: Honestly, I have no idea what happened but I actually went to get a second opinion from Dr. Andrews and he said it’s really tough to read an MRI after a surgery is done because there’s so much scar tissue and different stuff going on. He pretty much said there was a chance they might have to go back in there, If it was still bothering me they would have to go back in there and clean something out, or redo the whole Tommy John (meaning a second elbow reconstruction). He said the bottom line is you just give it one last try, go out and pretty much let it rip and see how it feels. You know in my head I was just like well, I know it’s gonna hurt cause it’s been hurting. Other than that I only rested it like two days from throwing, and I went out there and just let it rip and it didn’t hurt, I don’t know how, if it broke up scar tissue, and after a couple of days rest, I don’t know what happened but it’s been feeling good ever since.
Petey: Really, no pain these days?
Steve: No. Nothing.
Petey: That’s fantastic. It sounds like maybe that’s what it was, scar tissue breaking up, whatever it was it was great news to hear that you were back on the hill throwing those tiny pills again. What kind of pitch counts do they have you working under these days?
Steve: I think right now I’m right around 80.
Petey: That’s about where everyone’s at in the short-season leagues. Rich Donnelly the Cyclones manager recently told me that his guys were at 80 too, and they would be gradually stretching them out.
Petey: Well you managed to make your pro debut, pitching for the K-Mets. You pitched their second game of the year, and have made six starts so far. What are your impressions, now that you’ve made your professional start and have pitched in some games, and what are some of your observations of the Appalachian League early on?
Steve: I would say it’s a better league than I expected, you hear rookie ball and you think it’s like the bottom of the barrel, but they’re still pro hitters and everything. I don’t know if you saw I kind of struggled with my command a little bit, in my first and last outing but it’s just like getting my hitters out and hopefully I can get my command back. It’s mostly like when runners get on base and stuff, I was worrying too much about the runners and trying to be too quick to the plate. Something like that, worrying about them stealing too much, and kind of lose my focus on the hitter. I ended up just walking guys and that’s when you start getting into trouble.
Petey: What do you think you need to do to be more consistent, is it just a matter of focus, or are there also mechanical things your working on?
Steve: Not really mechanical things, Ron Romanick the pitching coordinator he kinda cleaned up a bunch of things in spring training. And I’m just trying to repeat my delivery over and over again. And that’s when you find yourself starting to be more consistent. But other than that it’s just getting used to going out there and playing. In extended spring training I threw a bunch of innings there, you can throw innings but now it’s like do-or-die.
Petey: Yeah now it’s for real.
Petey: Your three recent starts have been fantastic with no runs given up over those 18 innings, what is different now?
Steve: Everything has felt locked in. Everything’s been going way, my command is on. My change-up has been on, which is something that let’s me cruise through innings.
Petey: That makes a big difference huh, when the change-up’s working?
Petey: As long as we’re talking about your change, can you tell me a little bit about your arsenal these days?
Steve: I’m throwing a fastball, curveball, change-up, more like a slurve-type of pitch. But that’s really it. I’m going to start trying to throw a two-seamer. Try to mix that in. It’s something I’ve never thrown.
Petey: Have you thrown any yet?
Steve: No, not yet. I’m pretty sure next start I’ll start throwing it. It’s just kinda like another pitch. I’ve thrown them on the side but never in a game.
Petey: You getting some good sink on it?
Steve: Just a little bit, it’s like my fastball, I wouldn’t say it rises, but up in the zone I get a lot of guys swinging at it. I guess the two-seamer would be a pitch which I could just throw down in the zone and get a ground ball you know? It’s not like a sinker or anything.
Petey: Yeah but a different eye level. How hard are you throwing the four-seamer these days?
Steve: In my last outing I was like 94 to 97, but the outing before that I was like 92 to 94, and before that like 90 to 94. I usually sit around 93, 94.
Petey: Do you find that when you take something off your fastball, that it’s got more movement to it?
Steve: It’s the same with both.
Petey: Have you set any goals for yourself for this season?
Steve: Not really, my main goal is just to log innings this year. Get used to pitching in front of a crowd and try to win a game.
Petey: You mentioned coach Romanick before, have any other coaches worhed with you and helped you out so far?
Steve: Jonathan Hurst is down here right now, and he’s helped me a little bit. Like that second game in Danville, he just stressed the importance of me throwing inside. That’s what I did and it worked. It worked real well, so I mean, stuff like that but like mechanics-wise it was Romanick that helped me in spring training.
Petey: What would you say is the one biggest thing you’ve accomplished in your development as a pitcher this season?
Steve: The biggest thing I’ve accomplished is just being healthy, but as a pitcher? I would say my change-up has gotten a lot better. My change-up is like my second best pitch. I feel pretty comfortable throwing it normally.
Petey: Cool. How bout the curveball? We didn’t talk about that pitch. What’s that like?
Steve: It’s kinda like a work-in-progress. It’s not even really a strike-out pitch. But it’s getting there. It’s definitely getting better the more I throw it but I don’t feel a hundred percent comfortable throwing it for strikes right now.
Petey: What other pitcher, or pitchers on the staff with you have been impressive so far?
Steve: I would say Robert Gsellman and John Gant have been impressive. Gant, I guess he gave up a couple of runs at the end of his last outing but I think he went five innings, no hits. I mean even his first outing he pitched great, but the numbers didn’t quite look that way.
Petey: He pitched four great innings and then struggled in the fifth.
Steve: Yeah, and then Gsellman pitched that shutout, and that was pretty impressive as well.
Petey: That was an awesome game, looking forward to seeing what else those guys bring. How’s Christian Montgomery look? That’s a guy he signed late last year out of high school, and no one has really seen him pitch yet.
Steve: He looks real good too, he throws the ball. I mean he’s got a real live arm. He throws it real hard, he’s got a great slider. He’s a pretty good pitcher as well.
Petey: And Corey Oswalt pitched really great the other day.
Steve: Oh yeah that’s right, I didn’t even know it but I guess he was like a third-baseman, and he looked like he’s been pitching for a while in his last outing.
Petey: Oh really, he has just recently been converted to pitcher?
Steve: Yeah I guess he was a real good third-baseman, and he just transferred to pitcher.
Petey: I did not realize that. Oh I wanted to ask you about this guy I know nothing about, but he’s pitched very well a few times now in relief, Flabio Ortega?
Steve: Oh yeah, Ortega he’s done real well too. He’s got a good fastball and like a hard 12-6 curveball type pitch. Yeah, he’s come in and got the job done.
Petey: Yeah he’s looked really good out of the gate so far. How about position players? Anybody we might not be too aware of who has really been impressing so far?
Steve: Jeff Diehl he can crush the ball.
Petey: He hits it a long way huh?
Steve: I think he’s going to be pretty good.
Petey: Being from Long Island, Steve, what do you think of living in Kingsport, Tennessee?
Steve: I actually like it. I like the country, it’s different but it’s pretty cool.
Petey: What do you do for fun when your not playing baseball?
Steve: There’s like a little river over here, sometimes we go fish at. Otherwise just hang out.
Petey: How bout the food down there?
Steve: Oh yeah, it’s good. There’s this place called the Purple Cow. It’s like a drive-thru place and you can pretty much order anything there. All times of the day, it’s pretty good.
Petey: Well listen thanks a lot I appreciate you giving me a little bit of your time, I know our readers are really going to enjoy reading about you now that you’re out there slinging baseballs for real. And we’ll be in touch with you down the road.
Steve: Alrighty, sounds good.
Well there you have it, an exclusive chat with one of our Mets top pitching prospects. It wouldn’t be a stretch to make the argument that he is the top left-hander in the Mets system. And with a skill-set like that, a lefty that throws mid-90′s with a good change-up, and is only 21-years-old? I better turn down the AC cause something just gave me chills. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Matz is 2-0 over 18 innings in his last three starts, with no runs allowed, five hits, eight walks and 23 strikeouts. With the emergence of Corey Oswalt and the addition of Chris Flexen to the Kingsport rotation, along with the improved pitching of right-hander Persio Reyes, and Robert Gsellman and John Gant contributing solid efforts, Matz may soon be deemed expendable and earn that call-up that will bring him back home to Brooklyn. If that happens, I might just have to make the trek down to Coney Island to watch that guy pitch.
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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