Behind the daily media briefing with manager Jeff Banister on Monday morning came the loud popping of a catcher’s glove, and to that sound were drawn coaches, trainers, front-office members and a surgeon.
They all watched as Michael Matuella, the hard-throwing but injury-plagued prospect, threw off a mound for the first time since being shut down in July because of a strained elbow ligament.
The right-hander had more success than he did after his lone 2016 appearance — he made it off the mound without any elbow pain.
“It felt really awesome,” Matuella said. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time now. I’m just happy to be making progress. I’m just focusing on a few mechanical small goals with tweaks in the motion, and that’s able to keep me pretty focused on the day to day and making sure I’m getting a little bit better.”
Matuella was projected as the first overall pick in the 2015 draft before his elbow blew out at Duke and he required Tommy John surgery. The Rangers took a gamble on him with their third-round pick and were eagerly awaiting his first season last year at Short Season A Spokane.
But he lasted only three innings, scoreless on one hit, before exiting with more elbow pain. A tear was detected, but surgery was not needed. The Rangers shut down Matuella and have him on a conservative rehab program that will conclude with him pitching this season.
There is no timetable, and that’s fine by all the principals involved, including Matuella.
“If there was no medical, there was something that he was an advanced college pitcher who could advance quickly,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “That’s not the reality. At this point it’s like, let him deal on Field 12, a little less pressure, and just take care of the body.”