Eager to put an ugly 2020 season behind him, left-hander Steven Matz will look to return to form with the Toronto Blue Jays.
What kind of opportunity the 29-year-old pitcher will get with his new team remains up in the air.
“I think my initial reaction is I’m really excited about a fresh start,” Matz said. “Especially with last year, with the way it went. When a team wants you, it always kind of gives you that energy.
“So I was really excited about that.”
Matz was introduced Friday afternoon during a 15-minute video call with reporters. He was acquired by the Blue Jays on Wednesday night in a four-player deal with the New York Mets.
Ace Hyun-jin Ryu anchors a Toronto rotation that will likely include Nate Pearson and Robbie Ray. Matz, who’ll earn US$5.2-million in the final year of his deal, should be in the mix on the back end with Tanner Roark, Ross Stripling, Trent Thornton and others.
“That’s my main focus is just trying to be that guy who’s really reliable and can go deep into games,” Matz said.
The 29-year-old native of Stony Brook, N.Y., reached the 30-start plateau with the Mets in 2018 and 2019, but struggled mightily last year.
Matz lost his rotation spot in the pandemic-shortened campaign. He spent time on the injured list with left shoulder discomfort and finished with an 0-5 mark and 9.68 earned-run average.
“I think last year I just got away from some of the things that gave me success,” Matz said. “Surprisingly some of my stuff, from a stuff standpoint, was the best it’s ever been in my career.
“I got away from some of the basics that helped me get guys out.”
Drafted by the Mets as an 18-year-old high schooler in 2009, Matz debuted with the team in 2015. He has a 31-41 mark and 4.35 ERA over six seasons, all with New York.
The Mets acquired reliever Sean Reid-Foley and minor-league pitchers Josh Winckowski and Yennsy Diaz in the deal.
The Blue Jays have ramped up their off-season activity of late and will likely try to add at least one more quality starter to their mix.
Toronto recently landed free-agent outfielder George Springer with a franchise-record US$150-million, six-year contract. The Blue Jays also signed relievers Kirby Yates and Tyler Chatwood, and are expected to soon announce a deal with infielder Marcus Semien, pending a successful physical.
The Blue Jays are coming off a 32-28 season that saw them return to the postseason for the first time since 2016. Toronto earned the eighth and final spot in the expanded playoffs but was swept out of the wild-card series by the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Just to see them go out and get guys like Springer and stuff, that’s awesome,” Matz said. “They’re committed to winning a World Series and that’s exciting.”
The Blue Jays will begin spring training in a couple weeks and play their preseason opener Feb. 27 against the Philadelphia Phillies. The regular-season opener is set for April 1 against the New York Yankees.
Toronto’s home opener is April 8 against the Los Angeles Angels. It remains unclear whether the Blue Jays will be able to play home games at Rogers Centre.
Border restrictions forced the team to play home games last year in Buffalo. The Blue Jays’ spring training field in Dunedin, Fla., will likely serve as a temporary home if restrictions continue this season.