Michael Morse walked past Mark DeRosa today near the dugout at Space Coast Stadium and said, with more than a hint of sarcasm, “Boy, I was really on Mattheus today, huh?”
“All over him,” DeRosa replied.
“Thanks,” Morse said. “I needed that.”
They laughed, because in truth Ryan Mattheus had made all the hitters he faced today look bad at some point. Mattheus arrived at spring training finally healthy, anxious to prove he belonged in a crowded bullpen that may not have room for him. His best session yet came today, when he induced an array of awkward swings and dribblers.
“He throws a heavy ball,” DeRosa said. “It’s hard and heavy. Good sinker, good slider. He threw the ball well. I’ve faced him twice. I thought he threw the ball way better today. He’s got a live arm. It’s heavy. You hit it, and it’s not going anywhere. You feel your bat reverberate. It’s like hitting a bowling ball.”
Mattheus had a solid 2011, his first full season back following Tommy John surgery. But by the end of last year, he had diminished arm strength, having not had a full season of innings since 2008.
Mattheus finally had a full offseason to train, and the biggest difference has come in his slider, a pitch that requires full arm extension. Many pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery take time to regain their slider, worried to put the torque on their elbow the pitch demands. Especially at the end of last year, Mattheus had lost some of that snap.
“This year, he seems to have a much stronger arm,” Johnson said. “He’s got that tilt back on his slider, which doesn’t bode well for right-handers.”