When Steven Matz started his first full season after his Tommy John surgery, he made a connection with the pitching coach.
In fact you could say he heard “Sweet Music” when he bumped into former Met lefthander Frank Viola.
“I think the big advantage for me was he was my first pitching coach pretty much for my full season (Savannah in 2013),” Matz said of Viola, who was his coach this season in Triple-A as well. “So he knows me and he was there when I kind of built my routine on being a starting pitcher. So this year it was just kind of fine-tuning everything and he’s big on me for the mental part of the game. So he helped me out a lot that way.”
It’s been a long road for the lefthander, who was the team’s second round pick in 2009. The surgery was surely a setback which cost him over two year and set his debut back until 2012 when he only pitched in six games for Kingsport.
And that seemed like it took forever and tomorrow’s start was considered a distant point in the future.
“It seemed pretty far-off, that’s for sure,” he said. “Obviously, you’re in it to make it to the big leagues and that’s what your goal is. So it didn’t seem completely out of the question but it did seem really far away.”
But the Mets are about to “Meet The Matz.” Their prized lefty will be taking the Citi Field mound in front of hundreds of family and friends. Since he’s from Stony Brook, there were certainly plenty of requests.
“Man I don’t know how many people, it’s going to be a lot,” he said. “I’m happy it’s at home. My parents are really excited. My family’s really excited. I’ve got a pretty big family, so there’s going to be a lot of people here, that’s for sure. It’s going to be fun.”
Matz went 7-4 with a 2.19 ERA in Triple-A Las Vegas this season. In a league filled with launching pads, Matz stood above them all and he was about to distinguish himself.
“Really just had to keep it out of my mind because it’s pretty known that that’s a really tough league to pitch in,” he said. “There are a lot of good hitters in that league and it could really snowball on you quickly if you’re not completely focused. So I got Frank there with me, just constantly reminding me that I’ve got to focus on each start. It was pretty helpful as well.”
Now, he is expected to do it in Queens at a ballpark that favors pitching and he is joined in a rotation that features Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. And next year, they will have Zack Wheeler coming back to complete the rotation.
But right now, Matz will be part of a six-man rotation that also contains Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese.
“I’ve dealt w/the six-man rotation last year pretty much the whole year,” he said. “And we did it a little bit in Vegas as well, I think, a couple times thru the rotation. So I’m pretty familiar with it and just going to go with it.”
So will the Mets, who now have all their prized prospects in the big leagues.
And that’s sweet music to their ears.