|Tyler Matzek was phenomenal in his Major League debut.|
The former No.1 draft pick of the Colorado Rockies way back in 2009 was once thought to be the savior of the franchise. He was going to be the first ace that the Rockies developed. It was a shock that Matzek dropped all the way to 11th overall. He threw in the mid-to-upper 90's in high school and looked to be on the fast track to the big leagues.
Fast forward five years and two days and the lefty was finally making his Major League debut. After struggling in the minors with his control, changing his mechanics and losing velocity, getting permission from the Rockies to go back home to his high school pitching coach while his team played on without him, the lefty looked like he was never going to make it.
Most Major League debuts are filled with nerves and butterflies. It wouldn't have been a huge surprise if the feeling that Matzek had when he took the mound was one of relief. Despite the obstacles, despite the struggles, despite the club losing faith in him, the lefty had made it. If he made it through the trials and tribulations that accompanied him throughout his minor league career, he had nothing to lose at the big league level.
If Matzek was nervous, he certainly didn't show it. The California native worked into the 8th inning, giving up only two hits through the first seven frames. He ended up giving up five hits overall and two earned runs, only one of which scored while he was still in the game. He struck out seven and walked none.
The amazing part of Matzek's performance was the pace at which he worked. He absolutely pounded the strike zone. He threw only 81 total pitches on the night, averaging less than 10 per inning. Of those 81 pitches, 60 were for strikes. As far as Colorado Rockies Major League debuts go, this one is up there with Bryan Rekar, Jason Jennings and Mark Brownson as one of the best.
With the Rockies in a tailspin, the start was exactly what the team needed. A night after Juan Nicasio gave up seven runs in the 1st inning, Matzek showed what a pitcher does. He didn't try and throw the ball by the Braves batters, he pitched to them. He wasn't a thrower, trying to muscle pitches past everyone, he delicately, but forcefully, threw strikes that were tough to make solid contact with. Matzek gave up more flyball outs than groundballs (four to seven), but he didn't allow the Braves to make solid enough contact to drive the ball into the seats.
While hope for the 2014 season is all but gone, the Rockies need to build the enthusiasm for the 2015 campaign. The clear issues for this team are, and always have been, the pitching. Both the starting pitching and the bullpen have been suspect for nearly every year since the beginning. For years, the Rockies have sold their fans on the prospects on the farm that would eventually turn their fortunes around. Those promises always fell flat.
However, heading into the 2014 season, even the experts were saying that the Rockies system is loaded with prospects. Jon Gray, the team's first pick a year ago, along with Eddie Butler, lead a class of prospects that presumably could change the fortunes of the Rockies. Dan Winkler, who was on that list, went down with a torn UCL, requiring Tommy John surgery, Butler is down with a sore shoulder, but Christian Bergman looked good in his debut on Monday, and Matzek dazzled on Wednesday night.
If two of those four prospects end up being the real deal, the Rockies suddenly have become a threat in 2015. If two of those pitchers can be good enough to keep the Rockies in games, there is a real chance that they can increase their overall win total by 20 games next season.
There are plenty of issues on this current Rockies roster. The injuries that they have sustained certainly don't help their situation. However, on Wednesday night, Tyler Matzek gave the Rockies and their fans a night off from thinking about the troubles that the current roster has. He brought something that Rockies fans usually don't have in June. He brought hope.
If Matzek can be close to the pitcher that the Rockies thought they were getting when they drafted him, they will be in a very good position heading into 2015.
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