There are times when a story goes beyond wins and losses, ERA, or any other stat that is randomly tossed out for discussion. This is one of those times when you realize that the pitcher or batter you are booing or roasting on social media is actually a human being who deals with many of the same issues you and I deal with on a daily basis. Such has been and continues to be the case with Tyler Matzek during his tenure with the Colorado Rockies.
Matzek, a first-round pick of the Rockies in 2009, has battled through anxiety issues since struggling through five starts of the 2015 season. In five Colorado starts, Matzek threw just 22 innings that season as he began to battle his internal demons.
In his final outing of that season on May 6, Matzek walked six Arizona Diamondbacks in two innings. He gave up four runs in those two frames and threw just 20 strikes in 58 pitches. He hasn’t returned to a Major League mound since.
In a candid interview with The Denver Post, Matzek said that he put too much pressure on himself to live up to his first-round billing. Eventually that pressure led to negative thoughts when things didn’t go well. Those negative thoughts crippled Matzek, keeping him from performing on the mound and consuming him off of it.
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The Rockies have done and continue to do what they can to help. Mental skills coach Rick Perea was hired to work with Matzek. They’ve been patient when Matzek needed to step away from the game and collect himself. It’s been a long, grueling process that has had its ups and downs, but it appears that Matzek may be turning a corner.
On Thursday, Matzek was taken off the disabled list and assigned to Class A Modesto (Calif.) to begin throwing more heavily with the goal of returning to the Rockies. He’s been working in Modesto, throwing five consecutive one-batter appearances as he tests his mentality on the mound. It started out rough, with Matzek walking the only batter he faced in his first three outings. However, the last two have seen him retire the designated single batter of the night. It’s a small step … but a step nonetheless.
Now with a plan to work longer outings for Modesto, Matzek will be put the test more and more. It’s a necessity if he’s going to get back to the Majors.
Tyler Matzek is fighting for his professional life right now. It’s a very public battle and it’s one that Matzek says he intends to win. Rockies fans are certainly hoping, on a professional and personal level, that Matzek can once again return to Coors Field.
We’re not just cheering for a pitcher this time. We’re cheering for a human being.