Struggling lefty looks to straighten out control issues in Triple-A
By Owen Perkins
Special to MLB.com |
DENVER -- Tyler Matzek's rise with the Rockies downshifted on Friday as he found himself headed for Triple-A Albuquerque after a rough patch of pitching following his first appearance on an Opening Day roster. He was replaced on the roster by catcher Wilin Rosario.
The 24-year-old left-hander started the first game of a doubleheader with the D-backs on Wednesday and lasted only two innings, giving up four runs on three hits and six walks. He is 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA on the season, but saw his ERA climb steadily on Wednesday, as he entered the game with a 2.70 ERA.
"I took a step back in that last game," Matzek said. "There's going to be speed bumps along the way. This is a speed bump within a speed bump. I just have to keep pushing forward."
Both Matzek and manager Walt Weiss agree that the top concern is his fastball command -- he threw 58 pitches, and only 20 of them for strikes Wednesday. They also agree that the issue is not mechanical.
"I think it's more about not having conviction with my pitches," Matzek said. "I'm trying to feel the ball into the zone. A throw-it-don't-aim-it kind of thing. A mental thing."
Matzek was the starting pitcher in the Rockies' home opener, and will try to reclaim his form at the Triple-A level. He was called up last June to make his first start against Atlanta and retired the first 13 batters he faced en route to a win in his big league debut.
"Typically when a pitcher struggles to throw strikes, it's one of two things," Weiss said. "It's either tied to his mechanics, or it's mental. It's a lot easier to get right mentally in that [Triple-A] environment.
"Let him catch his breath. He's not right. He's not himself right now. Tyler understands that. He understands what he has to do, and knows he has to fix some stuff in order to come back and help us win games."
With an off-day Monday, the Rockies won't need a fifth starter until May 16.
"It could be a blessing in disguise," Matzek said. "Get right and get back up here. You don't know until you go through the process."
The Rockies elected to add a bat to their bench and bring third catcher Rosario back from Albuquerque, where he was optioned on April 22. He got regular playing time in Triple-A, hitting .343 (12-for-35) with four doubles and four RBIs. He saw limited action with the Rockies through the first two-and-a-half weeks of the season, hitting .357 (5-for-14) with three doubles and one home run, mostly coming off the bench.
"When Wilin went out, we didn't see that as a long-term situation," Weiss said. "It wasn't that he needed anything. Our bullpen was beat up, and we needed to protect our pitching at the time. He went down there and swung the bat really well, like he usually does."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.