Steven Matz is happy to be back, and has no regrets pitching with his lat injury
Meet the Matz, again.
It’s been nearly two months since Steven Matz pitched in a major league game. He sustained a partially torn lat muscle on his left side after his big league debut, during which he allowed just two runs in 7 2/3 innings for his first big league win against the Reds.
But he ended up pitching a week later against the Dodgers anyway, knowing full well he’d have to deal with some discomfort, but not knowing the extent of the injury.
He was even more impressive in that start, allowing only two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in six innings for his second big league win.
But that would be all for Matz for a while, as he visited with team doctors at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan following their 4-2 west coast trip, and it was determined he would need to be idle for at least three weeks to allow the injury to heal.
After spending most of July and August at the team’s minor league complex in Port St. Lucie rehabbing, Matz is now fully healed, and will be inserted into the rotation sometime this weekend against the Marlins in Miami after completing his rehab assignment on Monday with the B-Mets.
Knowing he was dealing with some kind of injury in early July, Matz has no regrets about the decision to continue pitching at the time.
“It’s all in the past now,” he told Mike Vorkunov of the Star Ledger on Monday. “I feel like I had pretty good judgment and stuff just happens sometime in baseball so it’s not too much of a setback – just a couple of months. Now I’m back here and ready to go.”
Matz is excited to pitch in front of the fans, and do wahtever he can do to help the club win down the stretch of the season.
“I’m just here to help these guys win. That’s all I can do, is just to go out whenever I pitch and try to win the game for the team,’’ the young left-hander said. “The fans are really into it, the team’s winning games and it’s really exciting to be here.’’
Matz had some concerns about losing his sharpness during the long layoff, but he felt he regained his sharpness and command over the course of his rehab assignment, which lasted four starts ending with a brilliant performance with Double-A Binghamton on Monday night in Reading.
“I’m just going to try to pick up where I left off and help these guys win,” Matz said. “I was a little worried about having the time off, you lose your sharpness. But I feel I was able to get that back in my rehab stint, so I’m happy with that and I’m going to try to pick up where I left off.’’
The organization has continued to maintain Matz will remain in the starting rotation, and not go to the bullpen at any time for the remainder of the season. Terry Collins said last week it would be, “unfair” to put Matz in the bullpen, given his track record and injury history.
But Matz is primarily concerned with getting the club he grew up rooting for into the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
“I’ll do whatever they ask,’’ Matz said. “Whatever I can do to help them win, that’s what I’ll do.’’
He’s going to be asked to join a six-man rotation through the end of the regular season, beginning with a start either Saturday or Sunday in Miami. From there, it seems logical to conclude he will be in the playoff rotation, should he remain healthy and pitch effectively. It’s still unclear what his role might be in a five-game series, considering the Mets only need three starting pitchers with two off-days in that series. But if they decide to put Noah Syndergaard in the bullpen in the Division Series, perhaps Matz would be the club’s third starter.
But that’s talk for later. For now, Matz is just focused on the present.
“I’m not even really thinking about that,’’ Matz said. “It’s going to be my first start back. Just going to take it day-by-day, week-by-week, start-by-start, and go from there, let the rest kind of fall into place.”