|Tyler Matzek was great on Saturday.|
The rookie went seven strong innings, giving up just three hits and three walks. He struck out four, but most importantly, he didn't allow a run. With 103 pitches in, manager Walt Weiss elected to go to the bullpen for the final two innings, and four members of the bullpen combined to lock the game down.
While the eye of Denver has certainly turned to football, and frankly, the Rockies haven't given fans much of a reason to stay excited, Matzek is growing up. The left-hander has watched his stock rise quickly, then come crashing back down throughout his rough journey to the big leagues.
After being picked 11th overall in the 2009 draft, Matzek looked like he could be a guy who the Rockies developed into an ace. He threw in the mid-to-upper 90's as a high schooler in California. He had a slider that looked like it was near Major League ready as a 17-year-old. However, his mechanics got tweaked when he arrived with the Rockies organization, and suddenly Matzek looked like a bust.
It didn't take long for worry to set in with Matzek. His struggles were so pronounced in Asheville, the Rockies High-A farm team, that the club allowed him to return home to California so that he could work with his high school pitching coach. That is extremely rare. For a team to suggest that they may not be able to figure out the issues and trust a highly-paid commodity like Matzek to fly all the way home to work with a high school pitching coach seemed crazy. However, the Rockies were baffled enough to allow it.
The problem was that the lefty, who blazed the ball passed high school batters at 95 MPH was now pitching in the mid-80's. His velocity had disappeared. The Rockies were concerned and let him head back to California.
For Matzek, he never fully recovered his stride. He plodded his way through the minor leagues, seemingly getting opportunities to move up only because he was a former No.1 draft pick. He started the Texas League All-Star game a year ago, but his numbers didn't reflect an All-Star, let alone a starter.
With all of his struggles, however, Matzek seems to be comfortable at the Major League level. When a young pitcher has as much expectation heaped upon him like Matzek did, it is easy to understand how he could have wilted in the spotlight. He was only a high school kid, then he was asked to get hitters out and go on the fast track to the big leagues.
While Matzek plodded along, he kept working hard. He did a great job in Colorado Springs to start the 2014 season and when pitchers kept getting hurt, Matzek eventually got the call. He looked like a phenom in his June 11th Major League debut.
For a guy like Matzek, it is easy to believe that all of the pressure suddenly came off of him when he finally got his call-up to the big leagues. Some guys get nervous and sick about what they are going to be able to accomplish when they arrive. For a guy like Matzek, it almost seems like he was able to take a breath of fresh air. He had finally made it. All of the expectations, and all of the people calling him a bust seemed to weigh down on him. When he finally made his debut, it was almost as if he had taken the burden of not being on the big league team off of his shoulders and he was able to pitch like Tyler Matzek.
On Saturday night he showed that he can not only be a decent member of the starting rotation, but that he is growing up. He showed that the Rockies might not know what their plans are overall, but that Matzek isn't just a .500 type of pitcher. He showed that he could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy. That is something that the Rockies could certainly use.
The Rockies have a gem in Matzek. He still needs refining, but if nothing else, his strong performances give a great reason for Rockies fans to have even a slight amount of hope.
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