Cards select 156-pitch warrior Mathews on Day 2

July 11th, 2023

Stanford left-hander Quinn Mathews became the talk of the baseball world when he not only struck out 16 Texas Longhorns over a nine-inning outing in the Super Regionals on June 11, but he did so while incredibly throwing 156 pitches.

For those wondering if Mathews knew the risks of an injury while throwing that many pitches, understand this: Weeks earlier, he had co-written a 30-page analysis paper on the “internal brace” surgical procedure that is gaining in popularity and serving as an alternative to the Tommy John surgery that so many pitchers often endure. That paper helped Mathews graduate from Stanford, a ceremony he missed because he was pitching in the College World Series for the Cardinal.

Nothing, Mathews said, will deter him from being there for his team when he’s pitching.

“I just like to throw and pitch, and that’s not all that common anymore, because everybody is super worried about all the injury stuff,” said Mathews, who was selected in the fourth round (122nd overall) of the MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. “For me, if the team wants me to pitch, I’m ready to go and I’ll put myself in a good spot physically. I’m just kind of wired the old-school way where I’m going to throw as much as I can and as often as I can.

“The workload this year [at Stanford] was different because the team needed me to pitch a lot. The preparation I had put in over the first 21 years of my life got me ready for that situation, and fortunately I was able to answer the bell when my team needed me to.”

Mathews’ toughness and success with Stanford made him a target of St. Louis, a team in search of reliable relief and starting pitching. Of the nine players the Cardinals selected in the first two days of the three-day MLB Draft, five were collegiate pitchers.

Stripped of a second-round pick after signing free-agent catcher Willson Contreras last December, the Cardinals trained their focus on bolstering their outfield and pitching corps. After selecting slugging Arizona outfielder Chase Davis in Sunday’s first round, the Cardinals drafted injured Boston Colege outfielder Travis Honeyman in the third round. The fourth-round selection of Mathews jump-started a stretch where the Redbirds drafted college pitchers with five of six selections.

Cardinals assistant GM/director of scouting Randy Flores said the lack of a second-round pick and ranking 27th of MLB’s 30 teams in bonus pool money were factors in drafting college players instead of prep stars. Flores thought the Cards got a steal in Honeyman, a who hit 24 home runs and likely would have been picked higher if not for a shoulder injury. Flores also jumped at the chance to pick Matthews, the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year after compiling a 10-4 record.

“This is someone who is fearless and loves the big moment,” Flores said. “He really just progressed each year at Stanford. He’s just very, very up for any challenge. He was in the bullpen [as a junior], and then [he] wants the challenge of starting and wants the challenge of getting the ball in the biggest moments for as long as he can.”

As a junior at Stanford, Mathews willingly moved into a closer’s role and set the school record for saves with nine. That performance led to him being a 19th-round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft by the Rays, something he said “definitely put a little chip on my shoulder.” Ultimately, he decided to go back to Stanford for his senior season because he felt he had plenty left to prove. After all, when he predicted to his parents at age 14 that he would someday pitch for Stanford -- while playing on the “B squad” of his travel team -- he knew there was nothing he couldn’t accomplish once he set his mind to it.

“I told my parents that I was going to play at Stanford, and they saw it as delusional -- academically and athletically,” recalled Mathews, who knows current Cardinals Tommy Edman and Andre Pallante. “I set my mind to it and represented the Cardinal. Now, I hope to play for the Cardinals, and I’ll set my mind to that.”

As for his 156-pitch effort on in Stanford’s defeat of Texas, Mathews said he told manager David Esquer he wanted to finish the game. He showed no signs of letting up, striking out eight over the game’s final five innings. He even joked the next day that he could get three outs if needed.

“That was probably 90 percent joking and 10 percent serious,” Mathews said. “I played catch the next day and physically I felt OK. I don’t know how good or sharp I would have been, but I will always pitch if needed.”