BROOKLYN, NY - Luis Mateo, 22, leads the New York-Penn League in strikeouts and his slider is one…
Mateo Not Skipping A Beat
Since moving from the DSL to the Penn League, Mateo has spent most of his time learning how to mature as a pitcher.
"Extended Spring Training went very well for me," Mateo said through the help of a translator. "I worked on throwing inside more and that development has really carried over to the regular season."
His arsenal of pitches includes his fastball which tops out at 97 mph, his slider, which hits 87-88 mph, his changeup at 90 mph and his sinker at 93-94 mph. All four pitches have been working well for Mateo.
Since Mateo started playing baseball seven years ago, he has only ever known one other position: shortstop. Like his teammate, fellow Dominican Rainy Lara, he was asked to move to the position of pitcher. He hasn't looked back since.
While pitching in the DSL is very different than pitching in the Penn League, Mateo says the biggest difference is the mental game.
"You have to use your head a lot more. There's definitely the difference of a strong mentality with more knowledgeable hitters in the Penn League," Mateo said.
Although Mateo is only 22 years old, he has grown very comfortable in his role as a starting pitcher. His favorite player in Roy Halladay, and with the numbers that Mateo has been putting up, comparisons between himself and "Doc" may begin to show themselves sooner than later.
Pitching Coach Marc Valdes has noticed a lot of potential in Mateo.
"We heard from the guys that worked with him in the Dominican that he has a good arm but he needs to learn the game." Valdes said on Mateo. "Every game for him is going to be a learning process."
However, with the keen eye of a veteran coach, Valdes also noticed areas in which Mateo needed improvement, alluding to Mateo's current tact of working the inside of the plate, as well as the outside.
"He went through a few bumps, he tried to overthrow and out think the hitters instead of relying on his natural movement and his fastball. This kid, he's got 92-96 which is good enough to beat some guys down here at this level but we've got to get him confident in that throwing to both sides of the plate," Valdes said.
Of Mateo's pitches, Valdes believes the fastball is his best pitch, but would like Mateo to develop his changeup more to compliment his already striking fastball. Coach Donnelly agrees that Mateo's fastball is his greatest strength, citing his "live arm" as Mateo's greatest strength.
"He has a great fastball, but he needs to learn how to read hitters. If I throw you a fastball and you're way behind it, I have to notice that and throw it again," Donnelly added.
With Mateo's young career only just beginning, Valdes can see that his talents have the ability to bring him to another level, with time.
"It's going to take him a few years to see how quick this game can get on you when you get to the higher levels," Valdes said. "He competes, he wants to be perfect and in this game it's tough to be perfect.
"Nobody's perfect but he competes and he's a competitor. We've got to let him know that to get the better hitters out you've got to command better down in the zone."
Coach Donnelly has also remarked on the level of maturity in Mateo's game and the ability to move on with pitches despite what is happening around him. Specifically noting what he calls, "Instant Amnesia."
"All young pitchers need to learn how to handle bad calls, errors, bloop hits, things that depress you," Donnelly said. "I call it instant amnesia, whatever happens, it's over.
"For example you strike a guy out go and get the next guy. Or if you give up a hit, don't think about it in terms of the moment but the grand scheme of the game. Big leaguers do this."
Mateo hopes to learn the game more this season, work on his field mechanics to make quicker in game adjustments, but for Mateo, his biggest priority is staying healthy.
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