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Joe Mather

Joe Mather during batting practice, August 2007 (Photo by Dustin Mattison)

Joe Mather during batting practice, August 2007 (Photo by Dustin Mattison)

As Joe Mather battles for the starting third base job in St. Louis Cardinals camp, I thought it might be interesting to look back at an interview I did with “Joey Bombs” in August of 2007.

Remember, that was the season that Mather went from being just another player in the organization to one of the Cardinals’ top prospects. Between Springfield and Memphis, Mather would hit 31 home runs.

Dustin Mattison:  Congratulations on a great season.

Joe Mather: Thanks.

DM: What has been the difference?

JM: Maturity, probably. Just getting older. The more experience I’ve gotten, the better I’ve gotten.

DM: What’s the origin of the nickname Joey “Bombs”?

JM: (Chuckles) It came about my first year. One of the players on the team, Matt Lemanczyk, and our manager Pop Warner. Lemanczyk said it and Warner kept it going. I hit a couple of homeruns in batting practice and since then it has stuck.

DM: Tell me about going to the Arizona Fall League.

JM: I’m excited. It’s where I live. I live right there in Pheonix. It’s what I’ve worked for. I’ve wanted to be invited to go for a couple of years now. Since I signed, that has been the goal every year, to possibly get there. A lot of prospects come out of there. A lot of big leaguers come out of there. I am definitely very excited.

DM: What’s it like going from clubhouse in Springfield that sits atop the division, to one in Memphis that has had trouble winning games?

JM: Springfield was a great atmosphere all around. It’s a great city. I had never been there before. Like you said, they are winning. It was a young group, I was one of the older guys on the team being 24. I come up here and I am one of the younger ones. We’re losing. It is definitely a different feel in the clubhouse. It’s tougher for everyone to get motivated to play. But all in all, you got to put that aside and get ready to play.

DM: What’s the biggest difference in hitting in Double A and hitting in Triple A?

JM: Pitchers here know how to pitch. They have a much better idea. Pitchers at Double A will try to throw a fastball by you. Here you get sinkers in on your hands and cutters away. They rarely challenge you with a fastball down the middle. They are better picking their spots. That’s the biggest difference.

DM: I know you got a game to play. I thank you for your time and good luck the rest of the season.

JM: Thanks, I appreciate it.

(Ed. Note:  Originally published at MVN on Monday, Sept. 10, 2007)

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SEMO Off To Fast Start

Purdue's Black during last season's Big 10 Tourney.

Purdue's Black during last season's Big 10 Tourney.

It was a cold and wet day at Capaha Field but Zac and I braved the elements and headed out to watch Southeast’s home opener.  Okay, we lasted an inning or two.  We had watched baseball in the snow and now we can add freezing rain to our list.

Anyway, the Redhawks continue to tote some serious lumber.   The team rolled over Lyon 11-6 with the help of five home runs on the day.  Matt Wagner led the offensive barage with three hits including two home runs while driving in four runs.

Catcher Jim Klocke muscled a pitch in on his hands over the wall for a solo home run.

Klocke along with teammate James Leigh were named OVC Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively.  I am anxious to watch Klocke progress over the coming months.  With a powerful left-handed stick, he could be an interesting prospect if he is able to handle the duties of a backstop.

Southeast will welcome Purdue of the Big 10 this weekend.  The Boilermakers are 1-3 after winning its first game against Cincinnati in the Big East/Big 10 Challenge .  They then fell to an impressive looking Michigan, South Florida, and finally the Golden Domers of Notre Dame.  Purdue has been led in the early going by Freshman outfielder Tyler Spillner who is batting .429.  Third baseman Dan Black has provided the early power and brings a superb eye to the plate.  In its game against the Fighting Irish, Black drew five walks.

Baseball America picked Purdue to finish fifth in the 11-team Big 10.  Black was a preseason All-Conference as was Designated Hitter Brandon Haveman.  Shortstop Barrett Serrato was rated as the fourth best newcomer to the conference. Black was a monster in 2008 when he hit 18 home runs and drove in 70 runs.   Drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 35th round last June, he is the league’s leading returning longball hitter. An intriguing power prospect, he set a Big 10 Championship record with three home runs in a single game.

The switch-hitter is listed as a player to watch for the 2009 Brooks Wallace Award.

Friday starter Matt Bischoff was considered to be one of the top three starters before the season started.  Bischoff is coming off a season in which he posted a record of 6-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 77 IP.  The junior right-hander was drafted by the New York Mets in the 47th round of the 2008 MLB First Year Player Draft. In 2007, he was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year after posting a 2.85 ERA in 60 innings.

Purdue has not won a Big 10 title since 1909.  That can only be described as Cub-like.

Here is my latest post over at the Birdhouse:  St. Louis Cardinals and the Economic Crisis

Dustin Mattison

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First Weekend of College Baseball

Just adding to what Matt talked about earlier today.

Mizzou had a terrible weekend at the Grand Canyon tournament.  The Tigers lost three of the four games with ace Kyle Gibson earning the team’s only win.  Mizzou fell to number 15 in Baseball America’s Top 25. The team’s hard-throwing sophomores have to step up to solidify the rotation.  If not, this team is in trouble.

Stunningly, the Southeast Missouri Redhawks won two of three at nationally ranked Alabama.  The Redhawks will play its home opener on Tuesday afternoon at Capaha Field.  I hope I see you there.

Performances of those that could fall to the Cardinals at number 19:

Mike Minor (Vandy) The southpaw started out strong, spinning three scoreless innings before giving up and unearned run in the fourth. He ended up giving up three runs, two earned on five hits in 5.2 innings with six strikeouts and no walks in the no-decision.

D.J. LeMahieu (LSU)The talented shortstop collected five hits including three triples in nine at bats.  He also drew a walk and was hit by a pitch.

Mike Leake (Arizona St.) The right-hander struck out seven while allowing only one run in six innings against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Ryan Jackson (Miami) Two of his three hits were for extra bases over the weekend.  The shortstop also drew four walks in the four game set.

Ben Tootle (Jacksonville St.) Hurled four no-hit innings before leaving after 84 pitches.  Tootle struck out four but struggled with his command which led to three walks.

Kyle Heckathorn (Kennesaw St.) Recently featured at Baseball America, the 6’6″ right-hander did not factor in the decision on Friday after allowing two runs on four hits in five innings while striking out four.

Tyler Lyons (Oklahoma St.) The left-handed junior hurled six shutout innings while allowing only two hits to an underrated Manhattan program.  It was his 11th consecutive win.

Dustin Mattison

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Spring Is In The Air, sort of

Trevor Coleman (Photo by Dustin Mattison)

Trevor Coleman (Photo by Dustin Mattison)

It might be blissfully cold here in Southeast Missouri but Spring is definitely on the way.  The St. Louis Cardinals are in full swing with workouts in Jupiter while the Division I college baseball season kicks off on Friday.

I got a text message from Ian Ostlund earlier this week with his impression of the first few days of Cardinals camp, “It’s wonderful here….what a classy organization!”  Ostlund has become a personal fave and is one to watch when looking at the southpaws competing for a spot in the Cardinals bullpen.  I had the pleasure of interviewing “Oz” recently at the Birdhouse.

So it took only a couple of days for some controversy to come out of the Cardinals camp.  Seems that Joel Pieneiro has taken exception to being left out of the Puerto Rico rotation.  First off, he is not better than Javier Vazquez, Ian Snell, or Jonathon Sanchez.  Secondly, didn’t he learn from the Adam Kennedy experience that he needs to keep things in-house?

In a couple of weeks, the minor leaguers will be ascending on RDS as the minor league phase of ST will be starting up.  I had a chance to talk shortly with left-hander Jonny Bravo recently and he let me know that he is leaving for Florida on March 9. I really believe he has a chance of starting the 2009 season at the Quad Cities.

Over at the Seamheads Historical League, my All-Time Cardinals team continues to struggle.  It looked like the team was ready to bounce back maybe using Derrick Goold’s recent blog as motivation.  But it was short lived as the team has lost three straight.

It seems to me that the more players that get busted for steroids, the better Mark McGwire looks.  It seems Joe Posnanski at Sports Illustrated feels the same way.  He has an interesting piece on McGwire and that infamous Congressional hearing. 

On the college front, a few of the teams I follow closely will be in action this weekend.

The Missouri Tigers will be in Phoenix to play a round robin tournament with Gonzaga and Nevada. The Tigers are experienced and talented at the top of their rotation with Kyle Gibson, Ian Berger, and Nick Tepesch. Behind the plate, Trevor Coleman is one of the top backstops in the country. Both Gibson and Coleman were named preseason All-Americans by Baseball America. The team is ranked number 10 by BA while ranking at number 20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.

The College Baseball Blog ranked Gibson as the fourth best college player in the country in its Top 50.

Vanderbilt will making the trek across country for a 2-game series with Stanford before traveling up the road for another 2-game series with Cal.  Left-hander Mike Minor could continue the trend of a Commodore being picked at the top of the draft.

The Southeast Missouri Redhawks hit the road for a series against the 21st ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.  The Redhawks return most of its offense but appears to be weak on the bump.  JUCO transfer Kyle Gumenley is a southpaw that is hoping to bring consistency to the rotation.

Sikeston native and Blake Dewitt’s cousin, J.R. Bizzell, has started off strong for Rhodes College.  The senior is hitting .400/.457/.467 through his first seven games.

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Dustin Mattison

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Brent Strom

I found this kind of interesting.  This is Brent Strom, one of the St. Louis Cardinals roving pitching instructors.   This video comes courtesy of PaulReddick.com.  Sign up for his free news letter to get all kinds of cool videos.

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Roll the Dice on Chad Cordero?

Cordero while at Cal State-Fullerton (Flickr)

Cordero while at Cal State-Fullerton (Flickr)

With less than a week until spring training, finding who will close out games in the ninth inning for the St. Louis Cardinals is the top priority.  The team missed out on high profile closers Francisco Rodriguez, Kerry Wood, and Brian Fuentes.  But there is still a 26-year-old with 128 career saves on the market.  In fact, he was the youngest player in history to record 100 career saves.  Unfortunately, the player, Chad Cordero, is coming off labrum surgery.  History has taught us that torn labrums have not been easy for pitchers to bounce back from.

If the Cardinals are going to role the dice on a player coming off of an injury, I hope this is the guy. His injury caused him to miss most of the 2008 season and reports on when he will be ready to pitch in 2009 are inconsistent at best. But if he is able to make the long journey back, he would provide the experience in the ninth inning that Tony LaRussa is looking for.

The Cal State Fullerton broke out in a big way during the 2005 season when he saved 47 games while allowing an anemic 1.82 ERA to establish himself as one of the top closers in the game.  The Cardinals have sailed these waters before.  The organization rolled the dice on a pitcher it knew would miss the entire 2003 season.  The gamble paid off course as that player was Chris Carpenter.

But the Cy Young Award winner is an exception to the rule.  One of Carpenter’s 2008 teammates, Mark Mulder, is traveling the more common path. In his last three seasons with the Redbirds, the Southpaw pitched in just over 100 innings with an ERA approaching double digits.

There was another pitcher the Cardinals rolled the dice on who was coming off labrum surgery.  After having the repair in 1997, Jeff Brantley made 50 appearances for the team the following season.

In 2004, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus wrote an article that became a standard in labrum injuries. He studied labrum tears in major league pitchers and found that 36 had been diagnosed in the previous five years. Of those 36, only one had recovered to pitch at his previous level.  In the same article, the guru of sports injuries, Dr. James Andrews, said if pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they’d be destroyed.

But in recent years, the progress of medical science has given pitchers hope in returning from the injury.  Carroll himself believes those advances have made the article “essentially obsolete”.  He still believes that “It’s not good by any stretch, but it’s not as bad as it was just a few years back.”

Most Cardinal fans were disappointed when the team was the runner up for Jason Schmidt’s services before the 2007 season.  But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, Schmidt has collected over $27 million for 25.2 innings of work.  That averages out to be about $1.05 million an inning for those keeping score at home.  Can you imagine having to pay that and Carpenter’s contract?  That would be brutal.

There have been a few success stories in recent years.  Gil Meche has become a solid innings eater who garnered a big contract from the Kansas City Royals.  Kerry Wood looks to have found a niche as a top of the line closer.  Jimmy Key had a couple good seasons after going under the knife.  But these are  the exceptions to the rule.

Labrum injuries have ended the careers prematurely of Brad Radke, Mark Gubicza, Steve Avery, Don Drysdale, Mark Fidrych, Wayne Simpson, Steve Busby, Mike Scott, Don Gullett, Matt Keough, Ben McDonald and John Rocker, to name a few.

Pedro Martinez doesn’t look the same since trying to return from the injury.

Kris Benson, Matt Clement, Orlando Hernandez, and Tony Armas Jr. are still trying to return to their old form.

So what does this all mean in regards to Cordero?  Buyer beware!  Though, he is relatively young, Cordero’s return is very unpredictable.  Unlike Tommy John surgery and its’ over 90% success rate, the odds are stacked against those trying to return from labrum surgery.  At the right price, the reward might be worth the risk.  But beware, your roll could come up snake eyes.

With the release of Adam Kennedy, I took a look at my favorite to be the Cardinals’ starting second baseman come opening day over at the Birdhouse.

In his chat at JSL, the Chatmeister Joe Strauss wrote that he feels the same.

If you are not reading my friend Brian Walton’s Cardinal Nation, why the heck not?  It is a great read and a must visit for Cardinal fans.

As always, keep heading to the Birdhouse for an insider’s look at Cardinal baseball.

I want to recommend another blog/podcast.  I have recently met Lisa Winston, one of the top minor league correspondents in the business.  She has a great blog called got milb?  Her and her husband, Wayne, are now doing a biweekly podcast which has become a staple on my Ipod.  Get over to Baseball Honeymoon to find out more.

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Dustin Mattison

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Cardinals Add 3 Pitchers

Brad Furnish (photo by Dustin Mattison)

Brad Furnish (photo by Dustin Mattison)

The St. Louis Cardinals invited three more pitchers to big league camp on Tuesday. Left-handers Brad Furnish and Katsuhiko Maekawa will join right-hander Shaun Garceau when pitchers and catchers report on February 14.

Dustin Mattison

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