Braves Transactions: 7/25/17

a former top prospect's long strange trip back to the minors

Promoted LHP Kevin Matthews from A- Rome to AAA Gwinnett.

Kevin Matthews (James Snook)

Promoted LHP Kevin Matthews from A- Rome to AAA Gwinnett

The Braves often promote and demote pitchers across multiple levels. In these cases, the pitcher won’t make an appearance, but instead will return to the previous level before pitching again. Some levels have larger rosters than others, so it invites some roster maneuvering. When you look at the transactions list and see that a low-A reliever jumped to AAA, you assume that’s all that’s happening – roster maneuvering.

Imagine my surprise when I see that Matthews not only pitched for Gwinnett upon his promotion, his first ever appearance at a level higher than A-ball, but that he actually started a game.

Matthews was a first round pick in 2011 out of Georgia’s Richmond Hill HS by the Rangers, and for a few years appeared on Texas prospect lists. He made his low-A debut that year, an impressive promotion for a 19 year old just months out of high school. He spent all of 2012 starting in high-A, struggling badly with walks but otherwise looking like a prospect. In 2013, Matthews required shoulder surgery, and he missed the entire season. He returned for 21.1 innings in 2014, where he still had walk issues. As 2015 began, Matthews struggled still across 6 relief appearances, and after a DWI in early May, Texas released him.

Matthews was virtually unheard from since then. In early 2017, he was pitching in the United Shore Professional Baseball League, a Michigan-based league that began 14 months ago and has a total of 4 teams. The Utica Unicorns won the first USPBL title over the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers last September. Matthews joined the Beavers in 2017, and through 28 innings resembled his old minor league self, striking out 48 batters but walking 20. The Braves, quite surprisingly, signed Matthews on July 1.

In 5 relief appearances at Rome this month, Matthews pitched 9.2 innings, allowing 9 hits, 5 walks, and only 1 ER against 8 strikeouts.  Pretty good for a guy pitching in semi-pro ball in metro Detroit a month earlier, but not exactly eye-popping. And yet, he was promoted to Gwinnett, where last night he made his first minor league start in 3 years. Matthews went 4 innings, giving up 2 hits, 4 walks, 1 run, and struck out 3 before being relieved. His old struggles persisted – he threw 32 strikes and 36 balls. He’s going to have to work those out. But he’ll be working them out in the minor leagues, at home in Georgia. For a Georgia native throwing off a mound in Utica, MI earlier this summer, that’s a challenge well worth facing.

About Brent Blackwell 172 Articles
Brent Blackwell also writes for College Football By The Numbers at www.cfbtn.com.

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