PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Steven Matz made it through a 55-pitch flat-ground session Monday morning despite his recent elbow flare-up, but his status for the first week of the season remains in doubt.
Matz was scratched from Monday’s scheduled Grapefruit League start because of elbow tenderness. In its place, he threw from roughly 70 feet in four separate, inning-type parts, with a pause in between, under the guidance of pitching coach Dan Warthen.
“I wasn’t too worried about it,” Matz said. “Just had to back it down. It felt good.”
Warthen did see a potential flaw in Matz’s delivery that the two tried to correct during the session. As Warthen explained, he tried to “shorten” Matz’s arm angle in an effort to cause “less bang” on the elbow. Matz had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and had a large bone spur removed from the elbow last October.
“I guess sometimes I get a little long when I’m out there in the game, when I’m trying to throw harder,” Matz said. “[Now I’m] trying to get back to my normal arm slot. You just create havoc sometimes. That’s something Dan noticed.”
What the two failed to address, however, is a timeline for Matz’s return.
General manager Sandy Alderson said Sunday that the team’s medical staff assured him that the elbow is structurally sound. Terry Collins, however, sounded skeptical about Matz’s chances of returning to the rotation for the beginning of the season if he doesn’t make another start this week.
“I haven’t put too much thought in it, honestly,” Matz said. “I’m just focused on today. I got through a good day throwing and I’ll focus on tomorrow now. Then, whatever happens happens. It’s out of my control. I’m just going to try to do the best I can to get on that mound. So whatever works out works out.”
With Matz limited to the flat-ground session, the two competitors for his potential vacancy in the rotation had Grapefruit League split-squad starts. Zack Wheeler pitched well against the Cardinals in Jupiter and Seth Lugo did not against the Nationals at First Data Field.
When asked if this recent bout of elbow discomfort was like anything he had felt before, Matz declined to elaborate.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s in the past. I’m just worried about today, honestly. I don’t want to overthink anything.”
That includes how he might feel this morning, which will determine the next step. Said Warthen, “We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”