Mets LHP Steven Matz, who is scheduled to start Monday's game against the Astros, pitched through pain last season before undergoing elbow surgery in August that ended his season. And he's ready for a fresh start.
"I definitely feel stronger," Matz said on Thursday. "My arm strength feels good. I feel really healthy -- feel like I'm in a realy good spot. The command is a little off right now, but that's to be expected at this time."
"I'm expecting to be back where I want to be as soon as I get in a game versus hitters," Matz added. "I'm a feel guy, so I'm not the type of guy that can really ease into things. I'm gonna have to try to treat it like a game and kind of get that game speed going again so I can feel all my pitches and feel comfortable out on the mound."
And Matz has changed his delivery at the suggestion of new pitching coach Dave Eiland, with the hope that the adjustment will prevent further injury. Eiland has told Matz to be cleaner with his left arm during delivery, according to David Lennon of Newsday.
"The cleaner, more repeatable your delivery is, that helps the percentage chance of injuries go down," Eiland said. "Everything's working in sync, everything's on time, there's less stress. Less stress on the arm, less stress on the body."
And Matz has bought in.
"Just staying loaded with my lower half and not so much leading with my arm," Matz told Lennon about the new delivery. "It's hard to explain. But it could be why I was injured because my arm gets kind of caught behind me and I try to make it up by being too quick."
Jacob deGrom had the same surgery on his right elbow in 2016 that Matz had in August. He returned healthy in 2017, made 31 starts, and tossed a career-high 201.1 innings while striking out a career-high 239 batters.
The 26-year-old Matz had a 6.08 ERA (5.05 FIP) and 1.53 WHIP with 48 strikeouts in 66.2 innings last season, when he regularly skipped between-starts side sessions due to the pain in his elbow.
He had a 3.40 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 132.1 innings in 2016, after posting a 2.27 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 35.2 innings in 2015 during what was his rookie season.
If everyone remains healthy, Matz is expected to be in the starting rotation along with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Jason Vargas, and Matt Harvey.