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Rockies LHP Tyler Matzek excused from camp to deal with 'personal issues'

Recurring anxiety issues have derailed Matzek's spring. The Rockies are doing all they can to help him.

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Colorado Rockies left-hander Tyler Matzek still has a big hurdle to climb.

Matzek, whose promising 2015 season was derailed when he began to suffer from performance anxiety, left Rockies camp on Sunday to deal with 'personal issues' stemming from the same condition, according to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Matzek has made one appearance this spring, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 2.

The Rockies aren't sure how long Matzek will be away, but manager Walt Weiss told Saunders he doesn't believe it will be for long.

Matzek has already conquered his performance anxiety to a degree, recovering from a disastrous 2011 season in which he walked 96 batters in 97 innings to eventually reach the majors -- and pitch well there -- in 2014. Matzek owns a 107 ERA+ in 139⅔ big league innings, showing more than a glimpse of the potential that led Colorado to select him with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft.

"I had to fix the mental stuff first before I could get back to where I was," Matzek told Purple Row near the end of his breakout 2014 campaign. "With those mental hiccups, the thought of never reaching the majors definitely crept in there. But I just kind of refocused and convinced myself it was going to happen, then worked really hard to get here."

"Looking back on it, I'd much rather have it happen in the minors then get called up and have to go back and forth while trying to work through it," Matzek added.

Things haven't gone well since then. After a reassignment to the minors last May, Matzek posted an 11.20 ERA with 25 walks in 13⅔ innings at Short Season-A Boise and Triple-A Albuquerque. Between his two stints in the minors, Matzek returned home for a "mental break," one that seemed to help him as he returned to action down the stretch.

The Rockies can only hope a similar strategy will work again for Matzek, who has the talent to pitch in the majors for a long time if he can harness the anxiety that keeps popping up. But getting right mentally is -- and should be -- Matzek's top concern, whether it's for baseball or more importantly for quality of life.