If Anyone Can Overcome, It’s Colorado Rockies Starter Tyler Matzek

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Jun 22, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher T. Matzek (46) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Matzek is struggling badly in Boise for the Colorado Rockies’ short-season affiliate, but if anyone can overcome command issues, it’s the lefty who’s been through it before. 

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Bad news was made a reality for Tyler Matzek this week when the Colorado Rockies sent him home to take a “mental break” with no scheduled timetable to return.

From the Rockies’ best pitcher to finish 2014, to the club’s starter in their home opener this season, to a demotion to AAA Albuquerque, and then short-season A Boise, and now… home. It’s been a steady ride downhill for Matzek this season, and this week’s news seems to be the new rock-bottom in a season of how-much-lower-can-he-go moments for the young lefty.

The news was broken by Thomas Harding at MLB.com:

"“We’ve been working so hard with him, we’ve gone through different steps to the point where we feel like he needs a blow,” Rockies director of pitching operations Mark Wiley said Monday. “It’s not a monster thing. We’re just giving him some time off to regroup while we decide where we want to go and how we’re going to attack it from here.”The decision was made after a messy start Wednesday at Class A Short-Season Boise, when Matzek walked five and hit a batter — and all scored — at Eugene. It was the latest mishap in a year that saw Matzek begin in the big league rotation but pitch himself out of a job and see matters worsen in the Minors. There is no schedule for his return."

That’s bad for Matzek, and bad for the Rockies, who were counting on the 24-year-old to be a big part of the starting rotation this year. Five starts into the season, he’s in AAA Albuquerque, and now… nothing. We asked you to tell us what you thought about Matzek returning to the big leagues this year, and the majority of you were very pessimistic about that option.

I’m pessimistic about it too, but… if there’s anybody who can overcome serious psychological and/or mechanical issues, it’s Tyler Matzek. He’s been through this before.

In 2010, he walked 62 batters in 89.1 innings in Asheville. In 2011, he walked 96 batters in 97 innings between Asheville and Modesto. In 2012, he walked 95 batters in 142.1 innings in Modesto. In 2013, he walked 76 batters in 142.1 innings — the best full-season walk rate of his minor league career, at just 4.8 BB/9 — in Tulsa. And in 2014, he walked 4.2 batters per nine innings in AAA Colorado Springs before his call-up to Denver.

All this points to a guy who has always had command issues. Sure, the problems usually haven’t been as bad as they are right now, but it’s not like Matzek came from pinpoint control and developed Steve Blass Syndrome. He’s always seen problems missing the strike zone. In fact, this isn’t even the first time he’s been sent home for a mental break due to command problems:

"Matzek asked for and received a break in 2011 while in Class A ball, and built himself to Major League level from there."

What does this all point to for the Rockies? Well, it could point to a guy whose career is now in the balance, much like Blass.

It could point to a guy who is going to lose a season — or more — and resurface somehow, somewhere, whether with the Rockies or another club.

Or it could point to a guy who just needs a little time — like he got in 2011 — to re-focus and relax.

I get it, Matzek went from bad in Denver this summer, to worse in his one Albuquerque start (seven walks in an inning), to the unthinkable in Boise trying to find his way back. The likelihood of him getting right is up in the air, and the idea of him doing it this year is now probably completely off the table.

But the fact that he’s done this before, and gotten through it before, is a hint that there’s enough mental toughness within him to get it right. Your pessimism about Matzek is wholly justified and his issues are very, very concerning for the Rockies’ future rotation. But considering where he’s come from, and the fact that he’s already gotten through this mental block once, tells me we haven’t seen the last of Matzek yet.

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