With the Minor League Baseball season canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a strange summer for the game’s young prospects. Orioles right-handed pitcher Isaac Mattson is thankful to be among the 60 players for the team’s player pool, and he’s focused on making the most of his time in Bowie as he eyes a potential call-up for his major league debut later this season.
And like many baseball fans across the country, he is just glad to have the sport back.
“It is different but at the same time I’ve been the last two or three nights watching as much baseball as I can,” Mattson said on Glenn Clark Radio July 22. “I’m just happy to have baseball back more than anything. There’s definitely some differences, but I’m just happy to have it back.”
Mattson was drafted in the 19th round in 2017 by the Los Angeles Angels. He was traded to the Orioles in December as part of the Dylan Bundy trade. The 25-year-old reliever pitched in five games for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees last season, striking out 19 with a 3.86 ERA in 9.1 innings. He also played for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League and recorded a 1.69 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 10.2 innings.
One of the challenges Mattson faces in Bowie is not having the opportunity to compete in real games. Instead, he is trying to mentally prepare himself as much as possible so he’s ready if he gets an opportunity to pitch for Baltimore this season.
“It’s obviously not going to be the same as when it really matters, but the closest you can get to simulating that in your mind, like there’s a runner on first and second even if they’re not actually there,” Mattson said. “Just going through what you would do in those situations and get as close to game like as you can.”
Mattson’s fastball is considered a strength and can reach 95 mph. Now, he wants to improve his slider and changeup and gain better control of the pitches to get more effectiveness out of them.
“I think the biggest thing for me is getting those off-speed pitches commanded and making sure they’re as nasty as they can be,” Mattson said. “For me it’s getting that off-speed where it needs to be as far as the movement goes and then being able to command it in any pitch, any count. … Once I get that quickened, I think I’ll be putting myself in a good situation to compete at the highest level.”
With MLB games being played without fans this season, Mattson could make his MLB debut without his friends or family in the stands. But while he admits that’s something he’s thought about, his main focus is just reaching a point where that opportunity is possible.
“It’s always in the back of my mind just trying to get to that next level,” Mattson said. “Obviously, there are steps that I need to take to get better and put myself in a position where that can happen. … If it happens, it happens, and I’ll be thankful if I get that call regardless of the situation, and eventually when everything kind of settles down I’ll get the chance to celebrate with the family.”
For more from Mattson, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles