The Tyler Matzek Era is over in Boise.
The trials and tribulations of the 24-year-old lefty have been well documented, but I'm not sure anybody thought it would come to this. It was on May 7 that Matzek last took the mound at Coors Field. By the early morning hours of June 23, he would find himself on a packed bus traveling through central Oregon. Today, he's at home.
Matzek's journey started with promise. The stint in Boise was a great opportunity to start fresh, out of the spotlight of the big club and away from the scribes of Double-A and Triple-A. In the Hawks' 25 years in affiliated ball, Matzek was the first player to visit for a rehabilitation appearance. Matzek's presence fueled the local excitement surrounding the new affiliate in town and as a result, Boise had its best-attended opening series in 10 years.
It was then that Matzek got his toes wet. The control was notably off in his two appearances, but he managed to get out of each respective outing relatively unscathed. Compared his awful appearance in Albuquerque on May 11, it looked like progress was afoot.
While the specifics of Matzek's rehab weren't concrete going into Boise, it was insinuated that the visit wouldn't last longer than the opening series. As the Hawks loaded up for an eight-game road trip to Eugene and Everett, it came as a surprise that he was indeed on the bus. Matzek's problems are clearly not ego related, but going from a charter travel itinerary to a 10-hour bus trip capped with minor league accommodations couldn't possibly help a struggling pitcher's mindset.
Sure enough, the woes were amplified last Wednesday as Matzek gave up six earned runs, issued five walks, hit one batter, tossed three behind the backs of right-handed hitters, and notched the loss in Eugene. I've tried to stay as objective as possible in following Matzek, but that 20 minutes of radio was an extremely difficult listen. The vibe quickly shifted from mechanical difficulties to a deep-rooted mental block.
Following the outing in Eugene, it became clear that whatever was going in on Boise wasn't working. Five-time All-Star Doug Jones is Boise's pitching coach, but fixing Matzek was simply too much for a first-year instructor at one of the lowest levels of Minor League Baseball.
On Monday, Thomas Harding reported that Matzek had been sent home to regroup with no timetable in place for his return.
Matzek's time in Boise was a roller coaster. What started as an exciting opportunity to see top-rate talent in this modest city turned into a strong depiction of humility and a real-time example of the effects of anxiety.
Much has been written over the past week about what could really be going on inside of Matzek's head. Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post incited the dreaded "yips" and Matzek, surprisingly candid, responded:
"I don't think that it's so much the yips," Matzek said. "The yips, to me, would mean I wouldn't be able to (pitch) in practice. I have had some mental demons that come up when I'm in a game. It's something that throws my mechanics off.
"It's not something I want to share. It's not something I want opposing teams knowing about."
Whatever those mental demons may be, here's to hoping that in this time away, Matzek is able to make progress. His upside still remains, but at this point the future is in his hands. It's easy to pile on and be critical, but sometimes it's just good to remember that baseball players are human too.