Acquired from the New York Mets this past off-season, left-hander Steven Matz entered the season as one of the Toronto Blue Jays back-end starters and is quickly emerging as one of the top arms in the rotation.
A native of Stoney Brook, New York, the southpaw was drafted in the second round of the 2009 amateur draft by the Mets and would make his Major League Baseball debut in 2015. Over the next six seasons, Matz would spend a majority of his time in the rotation, crafting a 4.35 ERA with 552 strikeouts over 579.2 innings with 112 appearances (107 being starts). Last season saw the left-hander move to the bullpen later in the year as he struggled with keeping runs off the board and saw his ERA balloon to 9.68 through nine appearances, spending some time on the injured list with shoulder discomfort at the mid-point of the shortened season.
The Toronto Blue Jays decided to take a chance on the left-hander after his rough 2020 campaign, sending former top prospect Sean Reid-Foley, pitcher Yennsy Diaz, and prospect Josh Winckowski to the Mets in exchange for one year of Matz. The move made sense as while the Jays did have depth at the starting rotation with internal options like Nate Pearson, Tom Hatch, T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay, and a smorgasbord of others, almost all those options had limited experience at the Major League level.
While Matz did have his struggles in the past, he entered the Blue Jays rotation as one of the more experienced arms alongside the likes of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, and Tanner Roark (who is now in the bullpen). He also came at a relatively cheap cost as SRF and Diaz are more likely heading to the bullpen rather than as starting pitchers (both players did not make the Mets Opening Day roster) and Winckowski is still developing in the minor leagues.
Since joining the Blue Jays, Matz has been nothing short of exceptional since pitching out of the rotation.
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In three appearances so far this season, the 29-year-old has a 3-0 record with 18 strikeouts, six walks, and a 1.47 ERA alongside a 0.82 WHIP through 18.1 innings of work. In his start yesterday during the first game of the doubleheader, Matz kept the Kansas City Royals out of the hit column until the sixth inning and would leave the game with just one run earned off two hits with two walks and five strikeouts. While he wouldn’t finish the seven-inning game, Matz left with the Blue Jays in a position to win and that’s exactly what they would end up doing.
Looking at the bigger picture, it is no secret that Matz is performing well above expectations early into the season. Given the injuries to the starting rotation and his ability being able to go out and pitch six innings in each of his starts, Matz continuously sets the team up in a position to not only win ballgames but also keep the bullpen from having to pitch extended innings, saving them for in times of need such as rain delays or when another starter struggles.
Entering the season as the Blue Jays 4th-5th starter, the left-hander has easily seen his stock rise and has just looked sharp every time he takes the mound. He is spotting his pitches well and just seems to be on the same page with catcher Danny Jansen, forming an impressive tandem that is seeing the earned runs over these three appearances limited to just three runs with only one home run allowed during those 18.1 innings of work.
While the season is only a few weeks old, fans can only hope that Steven Matz can keep performing at this level to help keep the Blue Jays in playoff contention in what appears to be a tight A.L. East division race.