Two months ago, Tyler Matzek was the Colorado Rockies’ starting pitcher in their home opener. On Friday, he tossed a shutout inning of relief for the short-season Class-A Boise Hawks.
Control issues prompted the Rockies to take Matzek out of games and to extended spring training. He was officially placed on the Hawks’ roster Friday and faced his first batters since May 13.
“I got away from what I was doing when I was going well in the past,” Matzek said. “... This is going to be the best way for me to get it back.”
Matzek started 19 games last season for Colorado as a rookie and five games this season, going 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA. He struck out 15 in 22 innings but issued 19 walks. He walked six Arizona batters in two innings May 6, then walked seven in one inning a week later at Triple-A Albuquerque.
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Though he declined to go into detail about what has prompted his struggles, he noted All-Stars like Zack Greinke, who missed most of a season away from the game, and Roy Halladay faced similar issues. Greinke missed most of 2006 battling social anxiety disorder, while Halladay admitted some 2013 struggles were mental, that he was forcing too much, not taking his command from the bullpen to the mound.
“Some of the best guys in baseball have had that happen to them. I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last, and hopefully I can get to the level those guys got to,” Matzek said. “I’m trying to understand it’s not a giant deal. I’m 24. I’m still healthy.”
On Friday, Matzek pitched the fifth and issued two walks. He forced a double play and struck out his final batter.
“I had some good ones, some bad ones. I’ll want to build off the good ones, but I think it was a good starting point,” Matzek said.
It’s likely Matzek will stick around a bit with the Hawks. Zach Wilson, the Rockies’ senior director of development, told the Denver Post on Monday “he is going to do some work with the short-season club over the next couple of weeks.”
Matzek expects to build up his inning count as he progresses — perhaps another one-inning appearance, then two or three — as he tries to get back to the majors.
“We’re trying to get him to get some consistency in his delivery,” Hawks pitching coach Doug Jones said. “... They wanted to get him in a new environment, less stress, get back to the basics and just throw. He might sometimes frustrate himself a bit, but here, he doesn’t have to worry about that.”
Though Coors Field seems a long way from Memorial Stadium, Matzek said he simply is trying to appreciate his climb back.
“It’s just one day at a time. It’s a little unique, so I’m trying to enjoy it, too,” Matzek said.