Mathieson, who has had a long road back to the big leagues following three elbow procedures (two of which were Tommy John surgeries), appeared in 7 games with the Phillies in spring training this year, posting a 2.00 ERA with 9 strike outs and 6 walks over 9 innings.
The Vancouver, British Columbia native made his Major League debut with the Phils in 2006 as a starter, going 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA, but had his career sidetracked due to arm trouble. This spring, Mathieson was back where he wanted to be and felt that he was primed to return to a regular gig in the big leagues. However, on Saturday, the Phillies sent Mathieson back down to minor league camp.
Mathieson's goal throughout his recovery has been to get back into the Phillies' red pinstripes on a permanent basis and while he is displeased with the assignment to rock Lehigh Valley IronPig duds instead, his focus isn't harmed one bit. "I wasn't too happy about it," Mathieson said in an exclusive interview.
"It's definitely disappointing. I was out to make the team. I didn't accomplish what I set out to do and it's quite frustrating. Aside from the one game where I walked three guys, I felt like I had a pretty good spring, especially while introducing a new pitch (his new split-finger). I felt like I threw pretty well. It's disappointing. It's not where I want to be, but hopefully, it'll help me in the long run so I can get back to the Majors.
"The Phillies are a great team and there's a great group of guys and I'd love to be a part of the team. I'd rather be a Major League pitcher. At this point, hopefully, that'll happen in the near future and hopefully it's with the Phillies."
The 27-year-old Mathieson was told by organization coaches that he probably would not be the closer for Lehigh, a role that he filled last season when he saved 26 games and struck out 83 batters in 64 1/3 innings with the Triple A IronPigs. Coaches expressed to Mathieson that they wish to stretch him out. He was informed on Saturday that he'd be used as a multiple inning reliever and perhaps share some duties, at times, in the 9th inning. This could mean that Mathieson, whose fastball is regularly clocked in the high 90's, is destined to slide into the Phillies' 6th/7th inning role that was once occupied by Chad Durbin.
In his first day back in the minors on Saturday, Mathieson couldn't even join his Triple A teammates, as they had already hit the road for an away game. Mathieson instead pitched with the High A Clearwater club, because they were at home. In that game, he threw 2 innings, struck out 3 batters and did not allow a hit.
The Phillies are now left with 7 healthy relievers (Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez, JC Romero, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, David Herndon) officially in big league camp, but continue to claim that nothing is set in stone in regards to the opening day roster.
Mathieson's close pal Mike Zagurski, another former Tommy John surgery patient, also received news that he was being sent to minor league camp on Saturday morning. Zagurski, a lefty, posted a 1.08 ERA in 8 games with 12 strike outs and 1 walk allowed over 8 1/3 innings. Mathieson sounded additionally upset for his friend.
"I feel real bad for him. He had a hell of a spring. He was pretty dominant all throughout spring training. We're in kind of the same boat. Hopefully, he shows something where he'll be one of the first guys to get called up, with me as well."