Mets manager Terry Collins said LHP Steven Matz may be skipped in the rotation after his winless stretch reached nine games in Thursday's 7-5 loss to the Yankees at Citi Field.
Matz allowed seven runs (six earned) in just 3 1/3 innings, giving up a three-run home run to Gary Sanchez in a 40-pitch first inning and surrendering four straight hits to begin the fourth inning.
The 26-year-old Matz hasn't won a game since June 28. Over his last eight starts, he is 0-6 with a 10.19 ERA, having allowed 38 runs (37 earned) and 57 hits in 32 2/3 innings.
"We've been trying different stuff and it's not really translating to the mound," Matz said. "I've never gone through a stretch like this before in my career. It is tough, but I never want to say that I'm lost. ... I want to think I'm just one step away from where I need to be and things will just click.''
Aug 17, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets manager Terry Collins (10) takes New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32) out of a game against the New York Yankees during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Collins said skipping Matz in the rotation would allow him to further work with pitching coach Dan Warthen between starts.
"We have absolutely wrung the rag dry with ideas,'' Collins said about his coaching staff. "Pitching is all about command and if you can't command your stuff, it's tough to pitch. ... You've got to command it and he's not doing that."
Collins is correct about how Matz hasn't been able to command all four of his pitches. When Matz is throwing strikes, they're all right over the plate. From watching at home on TV, it seems Matz's arm speed is different depending on what he's throwing at that moment. As Tom Glavine told me a few years ago in an interview, it almost always takes young left-handed pitchers longer to find themselves on the mound compared to righties.
Sometimes, having Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard in the same rotation made me forget that concept. But Glavine exemplifies that notion. In his first 100 starts across four seasons, he went 33-41 with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. Over his next 400 starts, he won 209 games, had a 3.15 ERA, lowered his WHIP and became a Hall of Fame pitcher.
Aug 17, 2017; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz (32) reacts after allowing three runs to the New York Yankees during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Chuck Finley, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, Randy Johnson and countless other names all needed around 60-100 starts before their career ERA began to dip and stay below 4.00. David Price got it together quicker than most, but still needed 30-40 starts and in to his third big-league season before having consistent success.
Matz is 26 years old. In 2 1/2 years with the Mets, he's made 41 starts (not including the postseason) and has a career 3.99 ERA. He's also had multiple elbow surgeries and missed large chunks of time due to injury or surgery since being drafted in 2009.
Matz will not meet expectations until he's able to make close to 30 starts. If he can stay healthy, find the right mindset that works for him and continue to develop his pitches, he's going to notice that everything will click, and when that happens, he won't look back. However, if he remains bogged down in his thoughts and fears or keeps missing time with nagging pain, it's going to continue being a grind for him.
In the meantime, like hundreds of lefties before him, Matz needs our patience and time to find "it," because he still has the talent to stand shoulder to shoulder with every name mentioned above.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...