Lefthander Steven Matz turned in another stellar performance on Thursday as St. Lucie beat Fort Myers by the score of 6-1.
Matz carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning that ended with a two-out bunt single. He ended the night with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out six.
“My command was there. I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes,” Matz said after the game. “My fastball and changeup and the contrast between the two was really working for me, and I was able to keep them down and in the zone.”
Ranked as the 10th best Mets prospect by MMO, when he wasn’t striking hitters out, Matz was inducing groundball outs including seven consecutive grounders from the first inning through the third.
“I was pretty annoyed” Matz admitted when he was asked about losing his no-hit bid on a bunt. “It was only a 2-0 game then, so you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Looking on the bright side, I was getting a little tired and it gave me a little adrenaline kick.”
The 22-year old Long Island native finished strong, pitching a perfect seventh and striking out the last batter he faced. “It was a good feeling to get that last punchout to finish the outing,” Matz said.
The hard-throwing lefty has been coming on strong since losing two seasons to Tommy John surgery after being selected in the second round of the 2009 draft. He went 5-6 with a 2.62 ERA in 21 starts last summer.
It’s exciting to see how Matz has evolved after the many setbacks he has endured. His velocity is actually higher now than it was prior to the elbow surgery and the ball just explodes out of his hand.
Surprisingly, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen compared Matz to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw last week, in an interview with MetsBlog contributor Robert Brender. “There is no doubt in my mind,” Warthen said. “I hate to make those comparisons, but I just did.”
Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s one thing when analysts and writers make over-the-top comparisons like that, but that this came from our own pitching coach bothered me. At 22, Kershaw was on his way to the first of two Cy Young awards and three straight ERA titles, not pitching in the Florida State League.
I’ve always believed that these far-fetched comparisons are very unfair and puts undeserved pressure on prospects who rarely – if ever – live up to that kind of hype. If anything, shouldn’t Warthen be the one charged with protecting Matz from expectations like that?
Anyway, the great news is that we have ourselves a tremendous pitching prospect who could develop into something very special for us in the very near future.
I would expect Matz to make his way to Double-A Binghamton within the next 3-4 weeks. We should all look forward to his continued development and even more dazzling performances along the way, like the one on Thursday night.
For more on Matz, MMO minor league analyst David Conde was at the game and has a complete write-up on MetsMinors.net.