NEW YORK -- Back in the early days of Steven Matz's career, when Matz was still a wide-eyed prospect, Carlos Beltrán approached him with some advice. Included was a tip on a good place to work out; Matz ended up using the facility for seven years, including during his rehab
NEW YORK -- Back in the early days of Steven Matz's career, when Matz was still a wide-eyed prospect, Carlos Beltrán approached him with some advice. Included was a tip on a good place to work out; Matz ended up using the facility for seven years, including during his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
“Obviously, being a Mets fan, I watched him growing up,” Matz said Tuesday at his “Strikes With Steven” charity bowling event in Manhattan. “When I sat down at the table in Port St. Lucie [Fla.], and he talked to me, I was kind of starstruck back then. He was a player, obviously a really good player and someone who I was rooting for.”
Now, Beltrán is Matz’s direct boss. A few days after the Mets hired Beltrán to be their manager, he called Matz to reintroduce himself and confer his vision for the team moving forward. Mostly, Beltrán talked about how he aims to use the types of information he leaned on as a player to give the Mets an edge.
“Him being a leader and not too far removed from a player, I feel like he just understands how a good clubhouse can function,” Matz said. “His passion for the game and all the information he’s gathered while he played -- he’s obviously a well-respected player in the Major Leagues. I think it’s going to be great.”
Matz, who went 11-10 with a 4.21 ERA last season, setting a career high with 160 1/3 innings while making 30 starts for the second straight year, will be a significant part of the Mets’ rotation again in 2020. The question is who will join Matz, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman. While the fifth member of the Mets’ rotation could be Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman or an unknown free agent, Matz is holding out hope that his friend and longtime teammate Zack Wheeler will return.
“Obviously, I’ve known him for really my whole career,” Matz said of Wheeler, who is expected to reject a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer but could still return on a long-term deal. “I really hope they bring him back. I hope he comes back. He’s a good friend and obviously a really good pitcher. So that would be awesome if he could come back to the team.”
In the interim, Matz is working on refining his own game, aiming to reduce his propensity for the “blow-up” starts that hurt his ERA in 2019. In his free time, he’s giving back to the community. Matz’s Tru32 charity began in 2016 as a way for him to honor local firefighters, police officers and military members by inviting them to Mets games at Citi Field. It has since expanded to include an annual bowling fundraiser. This year’s event was in conjunction with the FDNY Foundation, allowing Matz to fund scholarships for children with a parent killed or severely injured in the line of duty.
“At first, it was just inviting them out to a game to show our appreciation,” Matz said. “Then, it took on a life of its own, realizing the need that they have when tragedy strikes. Unfortunately, in this line of duty, tragedy does strike too often. So just recognizing that and helping out the little that I can.”
The Mets’ Roberto Clemente Award nominee each of the past two seasons, Matz recently won the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Joan Payson/Shannon Forde Award for community service. He will receive that honor at the BBWAA’s annual New York chapter dinner in January.
Fonzie, Mets to part ways?
After demoting Edgardo Alfonzo from Class A Short-Season Brooklyn manager to a team ambassador role last month, team officials indicated that Alfonzo planned to accept his new position. But Alfonzo clarified Thursday in an Instagram post that his “preference is to remain in uniform on the field.” A source confirmed that Alfonzo intends to seek employment outside the Mets' organization.
Earlier this week, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen called the decision to demote Alfonzo -- a month after he won a New York-Penn League championship -- “a player development decision.” Alfonzo said that “the new regime simply wants their own people in the system,” adding that he is not “taking this personally.”
A popular Mets player from 1995-02, Alfonzo returned to the organization as a coach in 2014.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.