Scott Mathieson made his return to the Major Leagues tonight against the Minnesota Twins. It did not go well. He allowed two runs on three hits and only recorded two outs. Based on that, one is bound to conclude that Mathieson struggled but that was not the case.
Delmon Young was Mathieson’s first obstacle. The right-hander got ahead 1-2 then tossed a fastball about a foot off the plate, hoping to induce a defensive swing, but Young laid off. On the next pitch Young grounded a low and inside fastball into the hole between third base and shortstop. Placido Polanco got leather on it but was not able to corral the ball allowing Young to reach safely with a single.
Mathieson got ahead of Nick Punto 0-2, then threw two high-and-away fastballs for balls one and two, an attempt to get Punto to fish and either swing and miss or pop the ball up. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Mathieson finally broke out a breaking ball. The curveball was down the middle but below the knees. Punto took a very defensive swing and was able to weakly ground the ball into right field for a single.
Danny Valencia, with runners on first and second and no outs, got ahead 2-0 but weakly fouled out to catcher Brian Schneider for the first out.
Denard Span worked the count 1-1 before hitting a line drive back up the middle, loading the bases with one out.
Orlando Hudson was Mathieson’s final batter. Perhaps nervous, Mathieson’s first pitch was a fastball in the dirt that skipped away, allowing a run to score and two base runners to advance. He rebounded and got ahead in the count 1-2, breaking out the change-up for a called strike two on the third pitch. He attempted to get Hudson fishing with a rising fastball but to no avail. Finally, he came back with a fastball which Hudson grounded to shortstop Wilson Valdez for the second out, allowing another run to score.
The tally? Three ground balls, a weak foul pop-up, and a line drive. All in all, I’d say Mathieson performed just fine.
Another complaint I expect to hear is that Mathieson is a one-trick pony, as 19 of his 22 pitches were fastballs. However, that is likely not to be the case going forward. When Mathieson came in, the score was 9-3 so the modus operandi is simply to throw strikes and get the game over with as soon as possible. Additionally, the kid was making his first Major League appearance since September of 2006. The orders were, likely, to simply pump fastballs to get his feet wet. Mathieson did each of his other pitches exactly once: his change-up, slider, and curve. So it was more of a trial run than anything.
His fastball looked good, maxing out at 99 MPH and averaging 96 MPH. I liked his use of the high fastball to induce bad swings. Unfortunately, the Twins are third in the American League in walks, so their ability to lay off of those high fastballs is to be commended.
I thought Mathieson pitched well despite the box score. If you tell me ahead of time that a pitcher will face five batters, inducing three ground balls and an infield pop-up, I’ll tell you that the pitcher should enjoy a lot of success.