By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
August 18, 2010
As a young pro in his first full season, it’s fairly obvious from a developmental standpoint to see what the Rockies are having left-hander Tyler Matzek work on. He came into pro ball with a curveball he trusted and a change-up he rarely used. The Rockies, for all intents and purposes, told him to shelf the curveball and learn to compete with his weakest pitch to make himself better. They also had him work on tightening up his delivery to get better downhill plane.
The numbers are solid but irrelevant in the long term, because these are developmental stats more than they are performance stats. Matzek feels that, by and large, most of the walks he has allowed have come from not yet being able to consistently throw the change-up for strikes. The other weapons are there, which is why in his first 12 starts and 60 2/3 innings for Asheville, he had allowed 48 hits, a solid figure, and 40 walks, a number he wants to get down. He had 63 strikeouts, so there’s the fastball that in high school was 87-90 early in the spring 2009 draft cycle and 90-94 as he loosened up.
Matzek, 19, explained how he feels his velocity and command have been steady this season. He’s had a few moments where he questioned himself, especially in situations where he has had to learn to compete with what prior to this season had been his third or fourth best pitch. That comes with the turf, but much of being a young pro is about learning how to battle when you’re learning on the job. This is what ancient big leaguers mean when they talk about not getting too high or too low. The game is too hard not to hang on tight to proper perspective.
Baseball Beginnings and Matzek caught up again recently to break down his first season, the ups and the downs of being a new pro, and what factors have gone into the numbers that have come up so far. He’s from our very first draft class, 2009, and we’re always glad to welcome him back to the site.
Baseball Beginnings: How have you thrown the ball this season?
Matzek: It’s been all right. There’s been a couple of minor changes in my mechanics. I think making those adjustments has made me miss the target a lot more than I would like to. I think that’s really reflected in the walks, which is the one thing from this season that I’m not happy with.
Baseball Beginnings: What kind of mechanical adjustments?
Matzek: Really trying to get my body back in the windup to help me get more on top of the ball and really throw downhill. It means different release points than I had been familiar with. It’s really been all about trying to re-train my body to pitch a different way. It’s the same arm slot and arm angle and all that stuff.
Baseball Beginnings: That sounds like something where you came to work on day one and they told you, ‘This is what you’re going to work on.’
Matzek: Pretty much. Last fall in Instructs they pretty much let me go and do whatever I had always been doing. So this has been an ongoing project all season.
Baseball Beginnings: I can remember games in high school where you had the really good curveball (such as in this video) and times when you weren’t as downhill. Has working on this made the breaking ball more consistent?
Matzek: Not as much because I’ve really shied away from the curveball this season because they want me developing my change-up more. I always used my curveball in high school and I barely threw my change-up, now it’s the other way around.
Baseball Beginnings : So is pitching backwards new for you?
Matzek: I think I’m finally starting to get used to it. I’m starting to like it and to feel more confident with it and I can see why they wanted me to develop it. Sometimes I get hurt with it and hitters hit it well and then I know I need to go back and get back to what I’m trying to learn how to do. As for the curveball, I kind of feel like it’s a bicycle that I’ll never forget how to ride. Once I get the change-up down, I know I can go back to the curveball and I know it’ll be there for me. And then I should come out of it with a fastball, curveball and a much better change-up. And I still throw the slider like 10 times a game and I think it’s bending all right for me.
Baseball Beginnings: Where’s the fastball velocity and control been for you this season?
Matzek: I’ve been sitting 88-92, and a couple of times I’ve been 94-95, which is pretty much the same old thing. Some days its higher and some days its lower, and part of that is getting used to the pro routine of pitching in the five-man rotation for five months instead of what you go through as an amateur. I feel more and more comfortable as the year is going along, which I think has to be good. I feel pretty confident in throwing the fastball for strikes.
Baseball Beginnings: A year into the process, do you feel like you’re getting better?
Matzek: I think. Some days I think I’m getting worse at some things, but I think everyone goes through that. Take the change-up. I know I need the change-up to be a major league pitcher. Sometimes it’s not as good as I want it to be but I know it’s a tradeoff, because I can work on it here, then take it back to Instructs in the Fall and start working with all three pitches. The big goal is to have the curveball and the change-up a good even level. I’ve been happy with my numbers all around except for the walks, which I think will come down. All in all, it’s a process. Nothing you can do about it.
Baseball Beginnings: We’re going to run the still we have from our old video camera for the picture, so you get to be a Capo Valley pitcher again for a day.
Matzek: (Laughing) Sweet!
Read Matzek’s first interview after he signs with Rockies
Read Tyler Matzek Q&A
Matzek hits 97
Watch Tyler Matzek Scouting video
Watch Tyler Matzek April Scouting video
Read Tyler Matzek Scouting report
Matzek Makes Final Start One to Savor