The 2011 Bullpen Needs You, Scott Mathieson

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I already wrote one Election Day special; there aren’t enough lights, colors, or Nat King Cole classics to call this a “holiday,” so let’s assume the appeal of a day that will probably end with the Republicans tearing the EPA in half like a shrieking lamb has been stretched pretty thin.

Another offseason of relief corps shuffles and Ruben Amaro taking the lid off his bullpen preparations as we look on in weary silence is upon us.  Names will pop on and off the roster until April, but one moniker slinking on and off the radar for the last few years has once again surfaced to pry interest and inspire overly-hyped comeback stories.

Logic and me drunk at a baseball game will tell you there’s no way we should be hearing Scott Mathieson’s name anymore.

“This guy’s got a ridiculous story,” I said to a woman as Scott warmed up in CBP this past June.  “He’s had Tommy John surgery twice and can still throw a blistering heater.”

Before she could even say “Sir, please get out of our seats before I call security,” Scott promptly gave up hits and runs, making me incorrect about something baseball-related for the first time in my entire life.

So his fastball, while capable of triple-digits, had all the movement of a bag of turnips rolling down a hill; and he didn’t seem readily capable of recording outs.  What is his appeal to the Phillies?  Heroic story or not, the organization has clutched onto him for a long time, through risky medical hiccups and years of development/recovery.

For starters, reader Shell reports,  “I saw him throw at a guy’s head and then strike him out on three straight sliders.”

There’s also the notion that Scott has always been a lengthy recovery, additional pitch, or a dash of experience away from discovering dominance.  A guy like Scott has value to us now more than before, in that the bullpen reeks of free agency and could really use an injection of young hopefuls with the potential for utter dominance.  Scott is the head of the class.

Enter Bruce Sutter.  The Phillies reached out for a contract killer to realign Scott’s pitch selection, and Sutter was the man for the terribly abbreviated job.

That’s Cy Young winner and six-time All-Star, five-time saves leader, and four-time Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Bruce Sutter.  He also had some pretty noticeable face hairs.  The Phillies tapped the ex-Brave reliever to come on in and give Scott a lesson in the split-finger fastball, supplementing Mathieson’s arsenal, and giving Sutter a chance to help out a team he never played for.

With the added weapon, Scott will have to be more than a story.  He’ll have to leap off the page, where he’s hovered as an epic yarn for four seasons and graduate from “oh yeah, that guy,” to Scott Mathieson, professional chill-giver.  Or at the very least, hop into a ‘pen in need of stabilization in the middle.

Medically, he can toss it.  Athletically, he’s inclined.  More pitches and added experience could make this guy a hand grenade-cocktail we serve on the house to plow the road for Madson and Lidge.  And if we dare dream even further down the path, his heat could get him a closing job itself.

But Mathieson’s fable, like perfect Lidge, can be something only seers will believe someday.  Or he could run out of steam after years of repair and repetitive stress, gasping and sputtering into a Little League coaching gig.  We are talking about a human being here.

The recipe for Mathieson is there.  He’s been rebuilt.  He’s gained experience.  He’s adding pitches.  The Phillies are looking to emphasize in house additions to the bullpen in a year of leaner finances while continuous bullpen needs.  It’s the perfect opening for him to arrive on the scene flanked by a firestorm and atop a roaring, flame-spewing steed.

Or, you know.  Something realistic could happen.

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Tags: 2011 Brad Lidge Bullpen Minors Offseason Phillies Ruben Amaro Scott Mathieson

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